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A Waif of the Plains   By: (1836-1902)

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Bret Harte's novella, set in the rugged landscape of the American West, invites readers on a captivating journey through the life of a young girl named Rosalie. Although the absence of a title for the book may initially make it less appealing, A Waif of the Plains unfolds into a poignant tale of resilience, love, and humanity.

Harte's writing style carries readers effortlessly through the pages, as his descriptive prowess paints vivid images of the harsh western landscape, making it come alive as a character in itself. From the arid deserts to the craggy mountains and sprawling plains, every geographical detail is masterfully depicted, transporting readers into a world that is both beautiful and challenging.

What makes A Waif of the Plains truly exceptional is Harte's ability to develop characters that feel as genuine as the rocky terrain. Rosalie, the young protagonist with an indomitable spirit, will surely tug at readers' heartstrings. From the moment she is discovered abandoned in the wilderness, her resilience and sheer determination shine through the challenges she faces. As she navigates her way through a society dominated by rough pioneers and complex familial relationships, readers cannot help but admire Rosalie's strength.

Furthermore, Harte deftly explores the multifaceted nature of human connections. Through the interactions between the various characters, the author delves into the depths of friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. From the salty and compassionate saloon owner to the kind-hearted but conflicted cowboy, each character possesses their share of flaws and virtues, rendering them genuine and relatable.

While the plot of A Waif of the Plains may appear to follow a predictable path at first, Harte introduces unexpected twists and turns that keep readers engaged and eager to discover what lies ahead. The story culminates in a heart-wrenching climax, as secrets are revealed and Rosalie's fate hangs in the balance. Harte's attention to detail and his ability to create an atmosphere of palpable tension make this final act truly gripping.

Despite its brevity, A Waif of the Plains is a book that lingers in the readers' minds long after they turn the final page. Harte's poetic prose, combined with a deeply moving narrative, crafts an unforgettable story about the resilence of the human spirit, the power of love, and the triumph of hope in the face of adversity. Although the lack of a title may create initial confusion, A Waif of the Plains proves to be a literary gem that deserves a place on any bookshelf.

First Page:


by Bret Harte


A long level of dull gray that further away became a faint blue, with here and there darker patches that looked like water. At times an open space, blackened and burnt in an irregular circle, with a shred of newspaper, an old rag, or broken tin can lying in the ashes. Beyond these always a low dark line that seemed to sink into the ground at night, and rose again in the morning with the first light, but never otherwise changed its height and distance. A sense of always moving with some indefinite purpose, but of always returning at night to the same place with the same surroundings, the same people, the same bedclothes, and the same awful black canopy dropped down from above. A chalky taste of dust on the mouth and lips, a gritty sense of earth on the fingers, and an all pervading heat and smell of cattle.

This was "The Great Plains" as they seemed to two children from the hooded depth of an emigrant wagon, above the swaying heads of toiling oxen, in the summer of 1852.

It had appeared so to them for two weeks, always the same and always without the least sense to them of wonder or monotony. When they viewed it from the road, walking beside the wagon, there was only the team itself added to the unvarying picture. One of the wagons bore on its canvas hood the inscription, in large black letters, "Off to California!" on the other "Root, Hog, or Die," but neither of them awoke in the minds of the children the faintest idea of playfulness or jocularity... Continue reading book >>

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