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on September 26, 2007
I was in the Navy in 1983 when I discovered this book lying around the shop. Having nothing else to read on watch at the time I picked it up and became instantly hooked.

A prior reviewer made the analogy that Harrison runs a thread of choices: No matter what we decide to do in life we can never be certain of the outcomes. What is important is that we are able to live with the options we choose for ourselves. All three short stories contained in this book explore this theme and the character they exhibit when faced with challenges. It seldom works out how we, the reader, want it to end but like the protaganist we are able to make peace with it.

I seldom if ever read a book more than once, but I have read this one at minimum seven times. As a very young man trying to find himself in a huge cold world when I discovered Jim Harrison's work, Legends Of The Fall (And Other Short Stories) became a sort of blueprint for what would follow in my life and how would I meet the challenges: Alcoholism, divorce, death, even my spitituality.

The movie follows the story line very closely and for that we can be grateful. The tale is beautiful on its own and punching it up to make the transition would have been a fruitless exercise. That said, the vivid picture Harrison paints throughout while utilizing an economy of words causes the film to pale in comparrison.
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VINE VOICEon February 27, 2008
The three novellas by Jim Harrison collected in Legends of the Fall took my breath away when I read them, and made me wonder why in the world it took so long for me to discover Harrison. His language is sparse and clean--reminiscent to a certain extent of Cormac McCarthy's--but it has a musical/poetic rhythm to it that is uniquely his own. His ability to create images, plots, and characters that keep the reader riveted is profound, especially given the fact that he uses (at least in the last two of the three novellas collected here) almost no character dialogue.

The publisher's blurb for Legends of the Fall say that the three stories all deal with the theme of revenge, but this strikes me as a paltry characterization of their richness. What the stories do have in common is that the protagonists in each of them suffer a fall from "innocence." In Revenge, the main character discovers that the "innocence" of honest and passionate romantic love can exact a horrific price. In The Man Who Gave Up His Name, the main character loses a sense of who he is after his "innocence" is shattered by the break-up of a nearly twenty-year marriage. In Legends of the Fall, the main character, an "innocent" child of the Montana plains, is traumatized by the violence of the world.

Yet the fall from innocence in each of these "legends" isn't hopeless. Life lessons are learned in each case, even if the lesson hurts terribly. This is especially evident in the middle novella. Norstrom, the main character, loses his old identity. But in the losing of it, he acquires a more sensitive appreciation of the everyday. It's as if his loss of self leaves an open, receptive space that wasn't there before.

Having said that, though, I think it's a mistake to try to reduce these novellas to a single, overarching theme. They're honest narratives of the complexities of what it means to be human. The characters behave admirably at times, reprehensibly at others. Nothing is cookie-cutter, nothing inauthentically simple. Harrison's faithfulness to the tangled web of human relationships, plus his mastery of his craft, makes these novellas minor masterpieces. I look forward to reading more from him.
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 2001
Like most of the people I know who read this book, I picked it up after seeing the movie. While I enjoyed both in their own right, they are so different that going from one to the other adds nothing to either.
While the movie's most notable qualities are a breath of story and an epic scope, the book is beautiful for its economy of words and distant style. Written in the third person, as opposed to the film's heavy handed first person, the perspective is all knowing, yet reveals few details. The author brings the characters to life to some degree, but what is amazing is that they are interesting given their one dimensionality. The story, short as it is, contains much less of the deep intertwined relations of the movie, but I believe that makes it much improved over the screen version.
While everyone focuses on the title story, the other two that are included are also enjoyable. As a read, each of the stories is quite quick and complete. If you are taking a trip in several staggered stints, this is a good book to take along and pass the time.
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on September 17, 2000
Upon watching the film for the first time, I wanted to know more about the characters. The film, although well casted (Pitt,Hopkins,Quin and Ormond),does not do much for the book. The book is a timeless work of art. When reading a book, I tend to feel the pain and suroundings of each chatacter. You can only do this to a point in a film. With the book I was lost in the life, and death of the Ludlow family. It was so wounderful to get inside Tristin and the others and experience what their life was all about. Mr. Harrison has done wounderful works of art. I hope to find more!
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on July 23, 2001
Initially upon reading Harrison's novella, I was disappointed since I wanted so much for it to completely parallel the movie. However, after picking up the story for a second time, my opinions have altered. I found Harrison's straightforward writing to be completely appropriate and rather distinctive. I discovered new depth to several characters who were slighted in the movie. The read was enjoyable and the story is so very memorable.
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on February 12, 2004
I thoroughly enjoyed all three novellas, particularly the Man Who Gave up His Name. Jim Harrison's writing through out this book is fantastic and very original. I highly recommend this book. It should be noted that this book is NOT the movie, and attempts to compare or critique the book by comparison with the movie is pointless. The movie was based on only one of the stories, and only bits of the story for that matter.
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on June 3, 2015
When I decided to read Legends of the Fall I had just finished viewing the movie for the innumerable time. I love the film, and it will always be one on my short list of movies that never fail to completely envelop me and transport me in a way not many can. Having said that, I emphatically urge you to read the short story that the movie is based on. Mr. Harrison is a magician with the written word. This is the story of the family and players made familiar to you in the movie, but it is very different from the screenplay. I wondered how a short story could tell the tale of such an epic film. Well it does, and in my opinion, it is so much more .
For those that have not seen the movie, this is the story of a family of different creeds, origins,dreams and dogmas. It
encompasses the raw wound of the treatment of native Americans, women's rights, prohibition, war, love, hate ,greed, life and death. The author is one of the finest story tellers I've had the pleasure of reading. I look forward to reading more.
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on February 3, 2016
For many years, I've been a huge fan of the movie Legends of the Fall. Only recently did I learn this epic story of guilt, remorse, and the love of brothers was based on a 1970s novel. . .actually, an 83-page novella. The author, Jim Harrison, was unknown to me, but no longer; having finished his riveting LEGENDS OF THE FALL, along with two other novellas in this volume, I will be looking for more titles of this marvelously gifted writer. To say Harrison's prose is unique is an understatement; his writing is fluid and cerebral, boldly introspective, and has virtually no dialogue. I'm rather widely read, but I've never come across writing like this.

The title novella appears last in this volume. The first novella, 'Revenge', tells the story of an Arizona tennis pro who has an affair with a mafia chief's wife--and pays a hefty price when the lovers are discovered in a remote cabin in Mexico. He is left for dead on the side of the road; she is disfigured and left to suffer in an isolated convent. The story conveys how the protagonist recovers, aided by a doctor in another mission, and how he plots his revenge on the men who have so savagely beaten him--and how he can find and rescue his lover. He does have his revenge, and finds his lover, who is terminally ill--yet he is also able, in the end, to forgive his main antagonist.

The second novella, 'The Man Who Gave Up His Name', is the ultimate midlife crisis story. A fortysomething man suddenly has an epiphany, and walks away from a remarkably successful professional career while giving away all his assets--to the consternation of his daughter, ex-wife, and recently widowed mother--and winds up as a cook in a diner in a tiny coastal Florida tourist trap. And during this eye-opening journey, the protagonist literally gets away with murder.

Which brings us to the novella LEGENDS OF THE FALL, the story of the three Ludlow brothers--Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel--who leave their father's north Montana ranch to ride into Canada to enlist in World War I. Alfred is solemn and serious, Samuel hopelessly romantic, and Tristan is a free spirit who has come along with his brothers only to watch over Samuel, the youngest. Those familiar with the story know how Samuel is killed in the war, and Tristan curses God and is overcome with grief--and guilt. He abandons his betrothed, Susannah, and for many years travels the world aboard his grandfather's schooner--yet his primary journey is to find inner peace. When he returns to Montana he discovers Alfred and Susannah have been married years before, his father's health is failing, and Isabel, the daughter of ranch hands when he left, is now a woman in full blossom. He marries Isabel, and his inner peace is found while he helps the ranch make money by smuggling whiskey into the country, an effort that attracts some very dark elements. And like the inevitable fall of dominoes, the darkness invades Tristan's life again, and he embarks on yet another journey of revenge--and a longing for peace. The novella ends beautifully and poignantly, but not happily.

If you enjoyed the film you'll appreciate the novella; the movie is based very closely on this story. Again, Harrison is a gifted writer who operates at the pinnacle of his craft; LEGENDS OF THE FALL is a riveting tale very difficult to put down.
--D. Mikels, Esq.
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on December 23, 2014
I would give all the stars to the third story, but I commend all three for marvelous writing.
This is one of the rare occasions that I have come across a book that has both wondrous
language and a story that actually has a plot that has a beginning, middle, and ending,
and characters that live, not just endlessly ruminate on their feelings. I LOVE Jim Harrison
and look forward to getting more of his works.
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on June 7, 2015
When I chose this book, I was expecting the story I had seen in the movie. I was surprised when the book began with another character in another time. The second story was also seemingly unrelated to the story of the family in Montana which the movie was based on. But all the stories are of men who live life on their own terms with little regard for social convention, bound only by their personal sense of right and wrong. The author lets us see the emotional depth of these men and their choices based on their strong personal beliefs. These are men who love fiercely and who never shrink from placing themselves in personal danger to defend those they love. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who like stories of people who take action, who live life independently.
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