06 May 2013

Review: So Young, Brave and Handsome by Leif Enger

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger

Published: December 2007

Pages: 359 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Adventure

Source: Own library


In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son. But when he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale, a new world of opportunity and experience presents itself. Glendon has spent years in obscurity, but the guilt he harbors for abandoning his wife, Blue, over two decades ago, has lured him from hiding. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Glendon aims to travel back to his past--heading to California to seek Blue's forgiveness. Beguiled and inspired, Monte soon finds himself leaving behind his own family to embark for the unruly West with his fugitive guide. As they desperately flee from the relentless Charles Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton who's been hunting Glendon for years, Monte falls ever further from his family and the law, to be tempered by a fiery adventure from which he may never get home.

My Thoughts

I don't even remember when, or why I picked up So Brave, Young and Handsome (although the sticker on the back tells me I bought it somewhere in the Euro-zone - it must have been an impulse purchase at a train station!) and it probably would have sat on my shelf for a lot longer than the two years it's already been languishing if it wasn't for a challenge on Goodreads.

I think I probably bought it without reading the synopsis and mistook it for a historical fiction about WWI, which it wasn't.  Instead, it was a story about a novelist who loses his purpose and sets off randomly on a trip with a man who drifts past his home in a rowboat one afternoon.

A mixture of adventure, road-trip and self-discovery, I didn't form a huge attachment to any of the characters.  I could sympathise with Monte's loss of direction, and I could understand his need for some kind of adventure, but I really didn't get why, despite his unending comments about wanting to go home to his wife, that he didn't just go back and pick up his old life.  I'm not sure if the author was aiming for a sinister or action-packed story, but if that is the case then on both fronts it didn't really work - I didn't feel any kind of danger for the characters, nor a sense that Monte wouldn't make it through his adventure.

There was however a distinctly wild feel to the story, and Monte and Glendon's wandering bought them to some very unique and vividly drawn locations, from the circus/rodeo to the open planes of Ohio and through to the hills of California, so there was a definite feeling of a real road-trip across 1910's America.

The favourite part of my book was the ending (and no, not because it was finishing!) as the characters came to the end of their journeys and realised exactly what they had been looking for as they had traipsed across the country together.

So Brave, Young and Handsome is beautifully written, but the language isn't over-complicated and instead tells a rather laconic, meandering tale of self-discovery and realising that the baddies aren't always who we assume they are.


  1. Meandering tales can be enthralling...if one can connect with the MC...sounds like this one was a bit lackluster...

    1. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't WOW either - I did want to keep reading to find out what happened but it just didn't grab me.

  2. This one's probably not for me but it sounds like a nice story.

    Yay! for finishing a book that's been on your shelf for a while too. I need to do that lol

    1. THAT was definitely the achievement I got from this one lol!



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