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Home > The Writings of Zane Grey > Western Novels > Book Review: The U.P. Trail

Book Review:
The U. P. Trail

by Marian Coombs
Crofton, Maryland

THE U.P. TRAIL (1918) is one of Zane Grey's most detailed and panoramic Western novels; indeed, it is first-rate historical fiction in addition to being one of his most gripping romance-adventures. The "trail" in this instance is the quest to build the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860sacross remote and rugged stretches of the West.

It is a portrait of the incredibly brave, tough Irish laborers whose hands laid the ties and drove the spikes; of the defiant Sioux, doomed to be driven back by the infernal "iron horse" of the white man; of the free-spirited trappers who also dreaded the coming of the rails into their virgin wilderness; of the violent, hellish camp-towns that sprang up and vanished again and again along the route of the advancing railroad; but above all of the romance between little Allie, who survives the hideous massacre of her wagon train, and young Neale, the gifted engineer -- "a New Englander of poor family, self-educated, wild for adventure, keen for achievement, eager, ardent . . . with strong latent possibilities of character" -- whose daring genius allows the railway to span impossible gorges and climb dizzying heights. Allie and Neale lose and find and lose and find each other across the vast wastes of the West as the politics of the U.P. play themselves out with their own tragic logic.

In the course of the novel's sweep, we get to know a seductive camp follower called Beauty Stanton who conceives a hopeless love for Neale, anddies for it. Grey's description of her end conveys pathos of the highestorder. Finally all her ravaged loveliness is consigned to the desert, along with the other fatalities of the town:

"The wind blew steadily in from the desert, sifting the sand in low, thin sheets. Afternoon waned, the sun sank, twilight crept over the barren waste. There were no sounds but the seep of sand, the moan of wind, the mourn of wolf. Loneliness came with the night that mantled Beauty Stanton's grave. . . . On that slope the wind always blew, and always the sand seeped, dusting over everything, imperceptibly changing the surface of the earth. The desert was still at work. . . . In the eternal workshop of nature, the tenants of these unnamed and forgotten graves would mingle dust of good and dust of evil, and by the divinity of death resolve equally into the elements again."

Let it be noted, however, that when Zane Grey writes about someone, he or she will never be forgotten.

Marian Coombs is a Member of ZGWS. She lives in Crofton, Maryland.

This book review is the personal opinion of the writer.

Home > The Writings of Zane Grey > Western Novels > Book Review: The U.P. Trail

Historical images of Zane Grey used with permission of Dr. Loren Grey
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Historical photos of Zane Grey used with permission of Dr. Loren Grey