This is a terrific book. I was daunted by it's length and actually had it hanging around my office for a month before deciding to wade in. Needless worry on my part. Larry McMurty's classic cowboy novel is one of the most delicious works of fiction I have ever read.
This is a book about the Old West. Cowboys, Texas Rangers, whores, gamblers, drinkin', cattle, indians, sheriffs, cattle drives, the Plains --- its all here. The main story revolves around a group of retired Texas Rangers, bored with running a minor ranch in the two-bit town of Lonesome Dove, who decide to take one of the last great adventures left in a West that is almost conquored. They decide to gather and drive a cattle herd from the Rio Grand to Montanna -- one of the last open areas where men could stake a claim and subjugate raw land.
What McMurty does so well is craft believable and highly entertaining characters. Gus and Call, the two Rangers are two of American literatures most memorable figures. The story revolves around their ambitions -- very different as are their personalities -- and the way they affect about twenty or so other characters who people the book.
This is a big book. It has several strong sub plots that could have been novels in themselves. The author ties each together in a manner that lends the unembarrassed moniker of epic to the whole.
The characters are each well developed and believable. Human to the last, there are no super heros here -- no Tom Clancy like Jack Clarks who can do no wrong. But several of the major characters are heroic in their struggles to survive and overcome the rough obstacles that frontier life often entailed. They are made more believable because of their flaws and mistakes and the less than direct paths they follow in following their souls. The villains and those in between are also memorably drawn and made full in the telling of this tale.
The West protrayed in Lonesome Dove is not the type found in Hollywood protrayals. McMurty's West is brutal, lonely and very tough. Living is hard, life often tragic and cheap. The joys are either hard earned or purchased in the form of liquor and/or women. Altogether a more realistic portrayal of life at the edge of law and civilization than the romanticized version often held forth in movies.
McMurty's dialogue is wonderful, creating a warmth that makes the characters stay with the reader. This is a book I could not put down and was sorry to finish. A treasure that any devote of good fiction will enjoy. "Dern good," as Gus Mcrae would say.
on January 10, 2015
It took me a few chapters to settle into Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and get used to the dialogue. I knew it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and could see right away that the prose was exemplary. It's very lengthy at 960 pages and yet, I didn't feel it was a long read.
The story itself is a simple one about a group of cowboys, headed by two former Texas Rangers, on a 3000 mile cattle drive from Texas to Montana. But it isn't just a story about the expected trials and travails encountered along the way, Lonesome Dove is about the complicated relationships between the two primary, and the many secondary, characters. The tale unravels at a very steady pace which allows the reader time to absorb all the exquisite details of the landscape, towns and life on the Frontier and the riveting dramatic highs and lows.
The large cast of characters, some who flow in and out of the narrative, are brilliantly portrayed. With their individual strengths, frailties and peculiarities so well defined, it's easy to keep track of them all. The author has an uncanny knack of writing distinct dialogue, with humour, sarcasm, hope, fear, resentment, anger, regret, longing and love, all equally well expressed.
McMurtry lures us into complacency as he sets up the story, introduces the characters and the story begins to unfold. When the drama arrives, it's hard-hitting and gut-wrenching, Death is always near.
The cowboys' skills, courage to overcome their fears and endurance of the weather and endless days and nights in the saddle on the cattle drive is striking.
The author has the amazing talent of creating heart rending insights into the mental states of his characters. We see the petty jealousies between the men and how irritated with and intolerant of each other they become as their enforced time together on the trail lengthens. The story centers on the unspoken emotions and thoughts of the characters, Clara being the exception. She's used to speaking her mind and likes an argument as much as Gus does. The excessive anxiety and runaway thoughts which result in obsessiveness debunks the myth of the strong silent cowboy. Our cowboys are fragile and silent for the most part.
The few female figures are complex, independent and damaged. I was surprised by the depth of their bitterness and how adversarial they were towards the males. Most of the men come off badly, Gus less so because he genuinely knows and likes women. As my favourite figure, Gus McRae will be a character I remember for a long time. I love his wit, honesty, wisdom and audacity and that he's as flawed a man as there ever was.
I found myself disappearing into McMurtry's world and often replayed scenes as I fell asleep. Lonesome Dove will be one epic of the Old West that stays with me for quite a while.
on December 31, 2009
Before I write a 5 star review, I like to read the 1 star reviews to see if there are valid points that I might have missed. It takes some guts to write a 1 star review on this book because virtually everyone that does gets annihilated by unhelpful votes and comments indicating that they are idiots.
Many of the poor reviews (there are only a few) point out 1) thin characters 2) negative stereotypical portrayals of women, blacks and Native Americans and 3)lack of literary merit.
So, I'll make my comments with those three objections in mind.
I have honestly never zipped through such a large novel so quickly. I found it exciting and inventive. It made me want to be out on the open plains with the main characters, Call and McCrae. This is not a novel that would win a Booker Prize because it doesn't use inventive literary techniques and it doesn't really deal with many abstract concepts. It's about cowboys who fight Indians, tangle with outlaws, face amazing obstacles in rough country, drink whiskey, gamble and sleep with whores. So, if I were to rate this on literary merit, maybe it would get a lower rating. In the end, it doesn't matter. I loved this book! I loved every second of it! It is high adventure with many memorable scenes where you simply can't tear yourself away.
The characters are varied and for the most part not dealt with deeply. The exception to that comment is the two main characters. The core of the book is the relationship between Call and McCrae. They are opposites. They don't appear to get along that well. They are partners. They love each other though they'd never state it that way. As annoying as they find each other, they'd each die for the other. They're also bigger than life. They have faced so many crises that they're cool and competent under all types of pressure.
The other characters are varied and, in my view, don't really indicate any prejudice on behalf of McMurtry. Deets, the black man in Call and McCrae's crew is extremely smart and virtually indispensable. Blue Duck is a villain and is the perfect opponent for Call and McCrae. He's their Professor Moriarty. I honestly think the characters are a strength in the book and that there are good and bad characters that cross gender and race.
So, if your favorite books are Booker winners then perhaps this won't be the book for you. Although I love books like Midnight's Children by Rushdie and Disgrace by Coetzee, I still have love for Lonesome Dove. It's a great western adventure.
Here are three clues to how you can tell this is a magnificent book.
1. After more than 15 years since it was first published, it is still being reviewed here on Amazon by ordinary folks like me.
2. It won the Pulitzer Prize. But don't let that intimidate you. This is a rip-snortin' great story of the Old West like you have never encountered it before. Nothing artsy-fartsy here. These are real people reacting to real and amazing situations and if you are a child of the USA, you will love the way you connect to it all.
3. At least once, but probably many times, while you are reading you will find yourself having to stop reading for a moment (although you won't want to!) and look up because you need to reconnect with reality. You may be on the Great Plains during a thunderstorm. You may be in a small town in Arkasas. You may be at Clara's farm on a picnic. You may be playing cards in a bar (...). McMurtry's amazing writing makes the Old West real for hundreds of pages. You'll never be the same.
If this is the first time you have read Lonesome Dove, I envy you. This is a great novel. One of the best American novels of
all time. Trust me. A great read. Enjoy yourself. You are privileged to participate in Lonesome Dove.
At first glance the book Lonesome Dove may appear intimidating, but I have learned that the best books welcome you in and make you look forward to reading more. Being goal oriented (ie. "finishing the book") is not the way to approach it. I read a little at a time, 20-40 pages a night, and it was like spending time with best friends. The author is so skilled at drawing his characters that they go down very easily and leave you wanting more. This ability is rare, and is the mark of a truly great writer. I finished Lonesome Dove last night and ended up wishing that I could spend more time with it, easily slipping back into its world again and again. Pick it up and read the first two chapters, and then two more chapters the next night. Before you know it you will long to be a member of the Hat Creek outfit, chatting with Augustus, Call, Deets, Pea Eye and the rest of the crew over a spectacular plains sunset on the dusty trail. Lonesome Dove is one of the best books I have ever read. It is more than time well spent - it will remain a part of your life and thoughts long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended.
"Lonesome Dove" is Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of life in the Old West of the late nineteenth century. It’s a tale of two aging ex-Texas Rangers who live in a small town called Lonesome Dove, located in south Texas, near the border with Mexico. Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call jointly run a hardscrabble business called the "Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium." (Actually, it's Call who does most of the running of the business and Gus who does most of the running of his mouth.) Despite their disparate personalities, Gus and Call have remained close friends for years.
A small crew of long-time friends (also former Texas Rangers) lives and works with Call and Gus. Pea Eye Parker, Josh Deets, Dish Boggett, and young Newt Dobbs are loyal, hard-working men with simple desires. For them, life revolves around Lonesome Dove, the Dry Bean Saloon, and Lorena Wood, the town's only "sporting woman." It seems like these men are all destined to live, work out their lives, and then die, in the same spot...
One day an old friend pays an unexpected visit to Gus and Call. After an absence of several years, Jake Spoon, a smooth-talking former Texas Ranger (and former partner of Gus and Call) arrives, bringing with him a "get-rich-quick" scheme: drive a herd of cattle north to Montana, then set up a cattle ranch there. Surprisingly, it is the stolid Woodrow Call, and not the impetuous Gus McCrae who's all in favor of picking up stakes and setting out for Montana…
…Meanwhile, up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, July Johnson, the town’s young sheriff, sets out for Texas in order to track down and capture Jake Spoon, fugitive from justice. Spoon, an itinerant gambler, had once passed through Fort Smith, where he had accidentally killed an innocent bystander in a gunfight. Accompanying July is his stepson, Joe. Not long after July and Joe leave, July's wife, Elmira, also departs on a separate quest to find Dee Boot, her long, lost lover. What does July do when he learns that Elmira has disappeared? And what happens when he crosses paths with Gus and Call and Jake Spoon and the rest of the Hat Creek outfit?
There are simply not enough superlatives to do complete justice to "Lonesome Dove." Larry McMurtry - a natural storyteller if ever there is one - crams every page with beautifully descriptive passages, intensely emotional situations, and fast-paced action. His characters are wonderfully drawn... the heroes are easy to like, and the villains easy to despise. Yet, the heroes are never too heroic, and the villains, although despicable, still manage to show an occasionally faint glimmer of humanity.
I was completely captivated by Larry McMurtry's mellifluous prose, which is rich, deeply textured, and abounding with great detail. McMurtry does a nice job of keeping things realistic and believable. Never once does he allow his multi-faceted story to descend into overwrought romanticism, hyperbole, or floridity. His descriptions of people, places, and situations is so realistic, so clear and vivid that, as I read along, it seemed I could almost hear his characters' voices and see the actions and places he describes.
"Lonesome Dove" is is simply an excellent read - alternately comic and tragic; romantic and hard-boiled; poignant and violent; this novel is always fast paced, witty, and highly entertaining. In short, it’s a genuine literary masterpiece, and certainly one of the finest novels I've ever read. Highly recommended.
on April 10, 2011
Prior to a vacation, I visited a local bookstore and asked the clerk to recommend a good "beach book." I told her that I didn't want fluff....I wanted a 'good' book. Literature, I remember saying. Her eyes lit up, and she said I know just the one and walked over to the wall and pulled out Lonesome Dove. I looked at it and laughed. I said, "Mary, I don't want to read a book about a cattle drive!" She wouldn't back down and told me that I'd come back to thank her. So with trepidation, I bought the book and took it to the beach. All I remember about that trip was falling into the book and not being able to climb out of it till I finished it. It's magnificent. A real tour de force. A few years later, as my son was preparing for a 6 mo deployment on a submarine, I bought it for him to pass the time on the sub. His reaction was the same as mine had been. And so was his experience. I write this as I'm preparing for another trip to the beach. By now I'm a 60 something woman and would recommend this great read to anyone of any age who wants to read a 'good' book. You'll come back to thank me.
on August 23, 2005
I stand by that title up there. It is not hyperbole. Lonesome Dove blew me away. It is an achievement on par with any novel written in American history, from any era, in any genre. I offer this promise: read Lonesome Dove and you will never regret it. You will never forget its characters--one of the best "casts" in literature--you will never forget the long, meandering story, you will never, ever think of the West the same way again, and you will enthusiastically recommend this novel to all your friends for the rest of your life.
on September 8, 2011
I almost put this book down after the first 70 or so pages (not sure because it was on kindle) but I'm glad I stuck it out. The beginning was a bit boring for me due to the cattle discussions/descriptions. After about 90 pages I couldn't put this book down and so didn't want it to end. Love love love this book.
on January 29, 2016
I just started this book so this is not my complete review. Everyone pretty much knows that this is the Pulitzer Prize Masterpiece from Larry McMurtry. I had always heard of the book and the movie and how great it was but never thought to read it. Maybe because it had been classified as western fiction and I had never read any westerns. However upon reading some other book (can't remember the name), the Lonesome Dove was mentioned which lead me to read the reviews. I was impressed to see how many people loved this book. I figure if it won the Pulitzer and so many people loved it then I could not go wrong in purchasing it.
A decision that I do not regret. I just started the book so this review is not complete. However I felt compelled to start a review because I love the book. The writing is undescribable, at least to me. It is a work of art how the author moves seemlessly from one character to another so that you know what each is thinking.
I don't know all of the characters yet but with the exception of a few, they all are lovable in their own quirky way. I will say that although I just started the book, I can tell the Gus is going to be my favorite character. How do I know this? Ten pages into the book and he has me laughing out loud with his comments, loud & brash manner and his running commentary on everything from his best friend and partner Call to how snakes are smarter than horses.
You got to do yourself a favor and read this book if you have not done so. Also the dialogue is wonderful and does not lag so do not skip any portion because you will miss a gem or wisecrack from Gus the Commentator. I can't wait to get back to Gus and the gang. I will update my review once I am finished with the book or I might be too sad that such a wonderful book had to end.
This is one time when you will see that most Amazon reviewers are all on the same page. Refreshing.