Posted by Gayle on April 27, 2000 at 10:24:17:
In Reply to: The Spy posted by Brent on April 26, 2000 at 16:06:08:
: I was just wondering if any of you Cooper fans have read his second novel "The Spy" (1821), and what you thought of it. And if you haven't, I highly recommend reading it. Cooper wrote this novel before any of The Leatherstocking Tales. The Spy was the first to use American history and characters (it is set during the American Revolution) and really launched J.F. Cooper's career. I've also read The Deerslayer, LOTM, and The Pathfinder; and surprisingly, I liked The Spy better than those first three Leatherstocking Tales.
: And on a similar note, I've also visited Cooperstown, New York and have been to Cooper's house which is now an art museum on the shore of Lake Otsego. It was really interesting to visit the site of The Deerslayer, and see all the places made famous in the novel.
It's been a long time since I read "The Spy", but I still think it is a remarkably good book for such an early stage in Cooper's career. Harvey Birch was a brilliant and believable character for the times. It is a shame Cooper was under so much pressure from his publishers to complete the book that the ending was hastily thrown together before he had finished the rest, but I still think Cooper would have come up with pretty much the same conclusion either way. It was his characteristic treatment of a hero who gave his all for a principle, and never failed, in any of his books, to roil the emotions of the readers.
Cooper gave an excellent picture of the dangers of trying to balance personal and family relationships with opposing loyalties - those who believed America should remain a British possession and those who were determined to fight for a free nation being all intermixed in the complicated circumstances. It was especially poignant regarding those who wanted a free nation, but whose property and wealth had been settled on them by the British. Conflict unlimited!
I was particularly fascinated by Cooper's description of the depredations of the Skinners. Has their ravaging of the population in Westchester County been covered in any other historical accounts?
Susan Fenimore Cooper gives a really interesting run-down on the writing of "The Spy" in her book "James Fenimore Cooper: Pages and Pictures". She offers some good insight into her father's development of the characters and plot. Well worth reading.
Thanks for posting in on your interest in Cooper's books. We've got a goodly number of "Cooperphiles" in Mohicanland, and we always enjoy a good book discussion.
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