The Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles, 1932 by Jim Fergus 10/10

Jim Fergus’ book is such a fun wild west book that is a great enjoyment to read. Each of the main characters has their own amusing quirks that adds to the story. The book follows a seventeen-year-old boy named Ned Giles. Ned enjoys photography, and after both his parents die, leaving him without any relatives he really knows, he decides to join an expedition heading down into Mexico to save a boy that was captured by the Apaches. Unfortunately, Ned is at first not accepted into the expedition because he is not of the upper class, but he later gets a job as co-photographer of the expedition, along with an extremely unfit man named big Wade.

Ned Giles is a likeable teenage boy that goes through a bit of growing up. However, the plot is not very focused on his journey as a dynamic character. Though I wish Fergus did write in more ways in which Ned could have grown as a character, but the story moves along fine without it. My favorite character was Tolley Phillips: a rich young man who goes through life optimistically, even though life may not always be in his favor. Tolley is capable of turning any situation into a party, yet he also knows when it’s a time to be serious. Then there’s Jesus: a young Mexican boy that Ned hires to carry his camera. Jesus, like Tolley, adds a lightness to the sometimes dark passages of the novel. The Apaches and Mexicans share a violent history, and there is frequent mention of violence, including murder and rape (however, there is usually only mention of such events, the only graphic part is the description of a severed head). Another character who I admire is Margaret. She is a strong female character that gets her fair share of heroic moments, and not without her own tragic back story. I found her to be a very well-developed character that added what La Niña Bronca (Ned’s love interest) couldn’t. La Niña Bronca is an Apache Indian who was captured by a hunter by the name of Billy Flowers, after her home is attacked. She was taken to a jail in town by Flowers, and put on display for everyone around to see, for few had seen a “savage girl” before. The character of  La Niña Bronca can be confusing at times, and though Fergus does a good job of revealing everything that needed revealing about her, it did feel like she lacked something. A little more dimension to her, instead of just depicting her as some marvellous yet mysterious being would have greatly improved her character. Adding onto that, I do think that Fergus dehumanised her in a way by focusing on what made her so marvellous, instead of what made her human as well. Additionally, even Ned often referred to her as “the girl” instead of by her real name, which she tells him a few chapters into the book. That was what I liked least about the book, but the rest was great enough for me to be able to overlook that.

I liked that the book was based on historical fact, and loosely based on actual events. The author did make a note that he could not write the Apache Indians to the fullest accuracy due to lack of resources, but it was nice to be able to hear the sides of both the Mexicans and the Indians from Ned’s narration. Ned (though not without his own prejudices) has been a consistently open-minded guy for his time, and provides a good neutral point of view for the narration of the history of the conflict between the Mexicans and Indians.

Overall, the read has been fairly easy to follow and understand without being too simple. I love the balance of seriousness and humour, which adds to the enjoyment.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “The Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles, 1932 by Jim Fergus 10/10

  1. juliadragu

    2nd half rating: 10/10

    The book only seemed to get better as it got further into the story. Though the book took a dark path as it got nearer and nearer to the climax, Fergus never forgot to add a touch of humor when times were at their darkest. Ned seemed to be even less of a dynamic character, while all the rest of the characters seemed to be growing without him.

    Something I forgot to mention in the previous blog post was the odd beginning that Fergus chose to write. The first few chapters are written from the point of view of Billy Flowers and La Niña Bronca, while she is being chased and later captured by him. Though it does make sense to have it written that way, Billy’s narration did put me off in the very beginning. Despite the fact that the reader grows to understand, and even somewhat like his character in the second half of the book, he is extremely unnerving in the first half. If I hadn’t read the summary beforehand, which let me know that Billy isn’t the main character, I probably would have set the book down as soon as he captured her. There was also the frequent mention of La Niña Bronca’s coming of age, which at times seemed an awkward thing to mention. But it did make sense, and the reason for Fergus writing that in is apparent, however in a specific scene in the very beginning of the book, I do wish he had been just a little bit less descriptive. Nonetheless, I thought it was an excellent scene as well, since I could imagine myself in her shoes, and I even felt second hand embarrassment while reading.

    Back to the second half of the book, I found that the character development of Tolley and Albert (an Apache Indian who had become “civilized”, and served as a guide for the expedition along with his grandfather) was great. Both Tolley and Albert came a long way from the beginning of the book, and went from not the most likeable to great people. Margaret I feel could have developed a bit more, but the book did not end without her learning a few things about herself. I loved that she was one of the more complex characters, and that Fergus was constantly giving little clues to what each of the character’s backstories are.

    At times it felt a little bit like Ned only served as a narrator due to the fact that he hardly seemed to develop and grow. It’s not something that felt completely wrong in the book, or out of place. It didn’t take away any of the greatness from the book, but it would have been nice to have Ned be a little bit more dynamic. From the moment his father died, he seemed to just be ready for the world. Just a little more uncertainly in the beginning would already be an enormous improvement. So if a book about a teen growing up and finding their place in the world is what you’re looking for, this one is probably not the best, since even the prostitute had more character development than Ned. (I also forgot to mention in the first half that the subject of prostitution is touched upon multiple times throughout the book, but it is only touched on.) There are mentions of heavier subjects, all of which I have spoken of throughout the two posts. They add a sense of realism to the novel, and they are not mentioned so often that it becomes unsettling at all. (Think the Tom Robinson trials in TKAM, so it should be a fine read for anyone.)

    Regarding the ending, (no spoilers, I promise) it did feel a little bit rushed. I found it to be comparable to The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. It wasn’t a terrible ending, but I do feel like it could have been written a little bit better.

    All in all, I still found the book to be very entertaining to read. For once, I liked every single character that was supposed to be liked (I really doubt anyone is supposed to find Indian Joe to be a very likeable character), and I can’t wait to read more of Jim Fergus’ books! Based on reviews by other readers, it seems as if his book One Thousand White Women is even better than this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s