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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 21, 2005
McMurtry's "westerns" are usually big sprawling sages, brimming with great characters, over-flowing with plot developments, packed with humor and tragedy. They make you feel the openness of America's west. In such novels as Dead Man's Walk or The Berrybender Narratives, we get a sense of what the west was like just as white men began to explore it. We see it through the eyes of simple folk, usually, as well as through the Indians. We understand how each side views the other. We understand how cruel the land and circumstance can be.

Other books, such as Streets of Laredo, show the west as still wild but becoming ever more tame. The Indians are less and less of a threat, towns are growing, the "wild" people who inhabited the land are feeling cramped. The buffalo and beaver are gone.

BUFFALO GIRLS fits into the latter category. But the books I mentioned above are different in a couple of key ways. 1) they are longer and more ambitious in scope, 2) paradoxically, the feel more controlled and unified in vision. BUFFALO GIRLS has a smaller cast than most McMurtry sagas, and the time frame covered (except for a hasty final couple of chapters) is fairly short. Yet by the end we feel as though we've kinda slopped all over the place.

Don't get me wrong, there is much to admire. Good characters (Calamity Jane is the "hero" of the book, but she often takes a back seat in the narrative, almost completely disappearing for chapters at a time) are here. Especially good is No Ears, the elderly Indian who remembers the old times and now has no real place among his own kind, so he hangs on with Jane and her male friends...old trappers, scouts and early settlers. He's well thoughout out, sympathetic and funny. We also have Dora DuFran, Jane's great friend who runs a saloon/brothel, and her long-time love, Blue, a man she shares great passions with, but can't get him to marry her. Another key character is Buffalo Bill. The book shows us how his famous show is put together, and paints Bill as a sympathic character.

The best part of the book comes in the middle. Jane and her friends, including No Ears, sign on to the Wild West show, and take an ocean voyage to England. Their experiences in England are terrific fun...well-written, imaginative and full of unexpected turns. There are some scenes at the London Zoo, of all places, that are lovely.

So, while the book has much to offer, it is also weighed down by a nearly constant state of sadness. All the characters are constantly thinking about their own deaths. Some DO die, of course, it wouldn't be a McMurtry book otherwise. But there's a mood of deep despair over the book, and while I admire McMurtry for creating this mood, it isn't always the most pleasant thing to endure. I found that unlike many of his other books, this one wasn't hard to put down. It's heavy going, because of the mood, and McMurtry's somewhat slopping pacing. When you're done, you feel like you've read a book twice as long.

I do recommend the book for fans of McMurtry. Even his lesser efforts are worthwhile. However, if you're new to McMurtry and want to try him...don't start here. Try the Lonesome Dove sage, preferably from the first book. You won't be sorry you did.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2005
We are in the last part of the 19th Century in this novel, and the Wild West has breathed its last. The book is peopled with real legends (Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull) and fictional curiosities (Jim Ragg and Bartle Bone - two Mountain Men, and No Ears - an Indian with exceptional eyesight). McMurtry relates a sad, elegiac farewell to times past. The ever-interesting characters and their views of the world, which are wise and funny and fascinating, make the novel top-notch in the McMurtry canon.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2005
Once again Larry McMurtry delivers the goods in this tale of The Old West . We are introduced to Calamity Jane who spends a lot of time writing letters to her daughter by the light of a campfire. Calamity Jane joins a Western Touring Company and the sea voyage to America is particularly memorable. There is also another character worth mentioning, namely a Native American called No Ears who views the world in terms of deep philosophical thought. Towards the end of the book we see Calamity Jane lamenting her lost youth and sadly reflects on the Glory Days of the Old West that she was once a part of. Larry McMurtry has writen a fine novel with a real, believable female character which is something most writers in this genre are unable to accomplish.Another wondrous tale from a Master Of His Craft.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
Many historic characters are mentioned in the novel, however, the emphasis is on Calamity Jane and her letters to her daughter fathered by Wild Bill Hickok. We know the West is passing when the characters must join a Wild West show and tour Europe. There is poignancy and a feeling of loss. We care about these noble scalawags! A good read!
Evelyn Horan - teacher/counselor/author
Jeannie, A Texas Frontier Girl - Books One - Three
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 1999
I really liked this book, but it made me depressed. It was anything but predictible, and the book was great... but the movie, let me put it this way... SUCKED! It did not follow the book whatsoever. The book is a helluva lot better. Don't waste your time on the movie if you're planning on seeing it. If you liked anything that Larry McMurtry has written you'll like this one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2009
One of my favourite books, and my favourite LM novel. No matter how often I revisit it, it always gets a tear.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 1998
Realistic, funny, sad, moving, stays with you. All the reasons I keep reading McMurtry, even re-reading, every chance I get. Will move you to tears at the end, completely unexpected. Thought about it and thought about it afterwards. Where does he get his knowledge of women? It never ceases to amaze me, from Calamity Jane to Aurora Greenway, he never misses. A MUST READ for anyone who loves a good story with real people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 1999
McMurty makes the characters in this book come alive. You particularly develop a fondness for Calamity Jane. This book takes an insightful look at the Wild West as it becomes a civilized place. All in all, Buffalo Girls is worth a look for anyone who enjoys stories about the West.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2012
What a piece of work!! Larry McMurtry writes like he lived the story himself, in a style that is both unpretentious and plain-apoken -- and each of his works is a joy to read. This is the sad tale of a disappearing breed (the Wild-West showman), and a surprisingly frank and unvarnished characterization of Calamity Jane. The made-for-TV movie starring Angelica Huston was terrific, but I read the book before seeing it many years ago -- and the book's second reading just recently was equally as satisfying as the first.

Read McMurtry for simple, stolid, believable characterizations, extremely smooth and believable dialogue, and an old-fashioned sense of moral values presented in a very non-preachy style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2014
I appreciate how Mr. McMurtry expresses how and what his characters are thinking and how they are feeling. Almost bringing them back to be a friend with whom one can identify or otherwise disagree.
He, also finds new ways of expressing feelings; ie., writing letters to her daughter (the reader) expressing her thoughts, her deepest feelings, fears, weaknesses and strengths etc.
I've enjoyed reading lots of his westerns, the enjoyment comes from seeing the people and conditions as they were in the historical days.
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