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Review: Calamity Jane: How the West Began by Bryan Ney


Displaying dfw-bn-cj-cover-mid.jpgCalamity Jane: How the West Began by Bryan  Ney
Published By:
Dragon Tree Books
Publication Date: 
August 9th, 2016
Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
Date Read: 
March 13th, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Martha Canary’s family arrives in the goldfields of 1860’s Montana in impoverished circumstances and despised for uncertain reasons. Soon though, Martha makes a name for herself as Calamity Jane through her exploits, wins friends and becomes the toast of the town. Murder and robbery stalk all who travel the surrounding trails, and Jane thinks she knows who is responsible. Can she and her new friends rally forces to clean the place up?

I received a copy of Calamity Jane: How the West Began from the author for review Consideration. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

I’m definitely behind on reading and reviewing this one. Once I picked it up though, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I really love historical fiction and as a history lover, I enjoyed this story to some extent. Although, I think I liked the idea of it far more than the novel itself, I really did like the concept of this book.

It begins in 1860, When fifteen year old Martha Jane Canary arrived in Montana with her younger sister. Calamity Jane is alone in a small town with her small sister and her neglectful parents. Soon enough she is well known around town. Bandits have been killing and hurting members of the community. Calamity is pretty sure she knows who is behind these acts.

It had an interesting storyline but it started of very slow and drags on a lot. I struggled with this one, I found that the book wasn’t really holding my attention and I struggled to push through. But once the pacing issues were resolved, the story started to take flight.

If you know anything about American history then the name Calamity Jane has surfaced. I think I even learned about her in school and I have the 1953 Western Musical loosely based on the life of Calamity Jane. This book gives a little look at what her life could have been like in the beginning. Not much is known of that time that Calamity and her family are in the Goldfields of Montana and this book gives you a little guess of what her life may have been like.

However, Martha Jane Canary didn’t get the nickname for another 15 years or so, her parents were long dead before her and her siblings moved to Montana in 1868, and those years were spent working various jobs. Little facts, but when using an actual historical figure would have added to the enjoyment of this book, if correct. Ignore the factual errors and you get a clever historical fiction.

I did love Calamity Jane’s character. She’s tough and brave, but has a heart of gold. She befriends people no one else ever would. She finds work in a place you would never guess, instead of going to school. Her character is very well described and she also develops throughout the story. But I didn’t really form an emotional connection with any of the characters, I found the characters rather flat.

My favourite component of this was definitely the writing. The writing style flows really well. I really enjoyed the writing style.

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