In her foreword, Edna Ferber says that only the “fantastic and improbable” events related in Cimarron are true. Perhaps that historical sense is what propelled Cimarron to the top of the charts in 1930.
The novel is about Sabra Cravat. Her husband, a lawyer, newspaperman, and adventurer, brings her and their young son, Cimarron, west to Oklahoma just after the 1889 run that opened the land to settlers.
Sabra soon learns her flambuoyant husband is already well-known for his oratory and his shooting. Yancey champions the Indian’s plight and teaches Cim to be pro-Indian, too.
Yancey periodically disappears for days, weeks, then years at a time.
Sabra keeps the newspaper going, makes it prosper, crusades for morality, education, and culture. Eventually she becomes US Senator.
When oil is found in Oklahoma, Yancey — always one to be where the action is — comes home again in time to die as dramatically as he lived.
Ferber makes the point that men went west for adventure. Frontier women were “the real hewers of wood and drawers of water,” the ones who made life possible.
The plot and characters of Cimarron are forgettable, but they are just interesting enough to make the history turn-of-the-century Oklahoma easy reading.
By Edna Ferber
Doubleday, Doran 1930
#1 on 1930 bestseller list
My grade: B
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni