Nephi Anderson wrote during the "Home Literature" period of Latter-day Saint literature. This period and Anderson's books participate in truly foundational works of the LDS people, and this book is couched in a very unique period in LDS history. During this novel's time and place of publication, daily life centered on teaching, learning, and growing... More
A Review by Jared F. Heath:
Nephi Anderson wrote during the "Home Literature" period of Latter-day Saint literature. This period and Anderson's books participate in truly foundational works of the LDS people, and this book is couched in a very unique period in LDS history. The style is antiquated at best and the story is not as compelling as perhaps a novel by Michael Crichton, but the merits and value of this book lie in his historicity as a foundational text and the brave efforts it took to publish when Anderson did.
As far as themes are concerned, the novel deals with the same life, love, and death that prevail in literature across the board. The relationships are surprisingly difficult, and life is, in fact, believable. Characters have flaws, life has disappointments, and questions don't always have answers. The novel sets itself apart as particularly LDS because the characters discuss Brigham Young, the Pearl of Great Price, and other things so specifically LDS without even explaining what they are or where they come from. In the first half of the book, Dorian has three loved ones pass away, and yet the topic of the spirit world doesn't seem to be addressed quite as frankly (or as didactically) as one might have anticipated.
Contrary to a knee-jerk reaction against the occasional Sunday school speeches, the moralizing is in fact a strength of the novel. This book, unlike Anderson's Added Upon, was never intended to be a missionary tract. It was written by and for an LDS audience who would understand the themes and ideas being presented. The religious themes throughout, then, serve the same purpose as other philosophical musings. Anderson's penchant for bloviating becomes problematic in certain schools of thought on the purpose of literature. During this novel's time and place of publication, daily life centered on teaching, learning, and growing. The LDS audience, then, would have greatly appreciated the novel as a vehicle for conversing on various ideas, both religious and secular. The plot was not intended to be a gripping tale of adventure so much as an examination of daily life, repentance, and progression--some of the most important themes in Latter-day Saint life, particularly at this time.
Dorian is an excellent example of literature at a culture's genesis. The Latter-day Saints are, indeed, a peculiar people, and their literature demands something as unique as their doctrine. Dorian, along with other works during its period, set the foundation of a culture of literature. Anderson is able to hone in on the quotidian concerns of his audience and present to them new possibilities as they continued to carve their existence out of the side of the Rocky Mountains.