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Dancing at the Rascal Fair Paperback – September 11, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 156 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The second volume in Doig's Montana trilogy focuses on two Scottish immigrants around the turn of the century.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The settlement of Montana between 1890 and 1919 is recounted through the quiet but compelling life of Angus McCaskill, a young Scotsman who travels with his friend Rob Barclay to Montana's Two Medicine Country to homestead. Doig writes fervently of the voyage from Scotland and the lean first years, as the two share the work and hardship of establishing claims and building up flocks of sheep. He tells of their separate marriages, the severing of their friendship, and the final resolution of their conflict through death. Doig successfully recaptures the violence of the Montana elements and the staunch heritage of the Scottish settlers which served so well in his earlier novel English Creek and faithfully represents the struggle for survival on the frontier as he continues the McCaskills' story. Highly recommended. Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (September 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684831058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio Cassette
This is a story of two best friends, Angus and Rob, from Scotland immigrating to Montana in the 1880's to become sheep ranchers, teachers, husbands, and fathers. It begins with them as young men with noble dreams and ideals, and follows them as they mature and build lives on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The descriptions of the land draw the reader to imagine the surreal beauty of Montana in all its seasons and moods, whether forbidding, forgiving, or formidable. "Where the bevels of the valleys met, the creek ran in ripples and rested in Beaver ponds. A curlew made deft evasive flight across the slope below us as if revealing curlicues in the air." (p. 80)
This book entices the reader with paragraph after paragraph of poetic prose. "I could feel the halt of all she had been setting forth until now, the stop of her thought as this new proposal opened, enormous as the future, before her." (p.156) I could turn to any page, and find exquisite sentences, long and languorous, or reverberating with insight and meaning. "I reached her to me, but there was too much in me to speak straight to what she had just said. Adair herself, myself, Anna, past, future, now." (p. 264)
The plot doesn't go the way I wanted or expected it to, almost to the point of frustration at times, but good stories never go just where you want or expect them to. You build expectations of characters you like and who love each other. You want their love to be fulfilled, but sometimes, just as in real life, it simply doesn't happen. Sometimes friendships go bad. Sometimes in life people disappoint or betray you. Doig presents characters who surprise you. You want to reach into the story and shake some sense into them. That's good stuff.
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Format: Paperback
I'm amazed I've not encountered Ivan Doig before. His writing is apparently a secret well kept from the greater public, although he seems to have quite a loyal following among those who've managed to discover his work. Maybe it's because his writing has been clumped into the vast "Western" genre--which properly links him with great story tellers like Grey and L'Amour--but calling Dancing At the Rascal Fair a "western" is about as accurate as labeling Gone With the Wind a "war story".

Doig's characterization is extremely insightful and carefully unveils the heights and depths the human soul can reach with searing clarity. His plot line (which some have called "slow to unfold") is in pace with the time he's depicting. And his imagery is unparalleled. His genius in burning a certain picture into his readers' minds reaps a stunning harvest at the climax of this breath taking depiction of life "under the skin". Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on January 8, 1997
Format: Paperback
Chronologically the first in his Montana trilogy, "Dancing
at the Rascal Fair" makes even flatlanders homesick for the
Big Sky Country. Doig puts words together in such a manner
that they make complete, correct English sentences. This
alone makes the book unusual in modern-day fiction. Then,
he grabs your attention with a spellbinding story that has
all of the elements that make you want to begin reading and
never stop. His beloved Montana comes to life such that
you can hear the constant wind, feel the biting cold, taste
the dust of the dry years, smell the sheep pens at shearing
time, and see the vast expanses of prarie fading into the
impossibly rugged mountains.

This book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go.
Even long after my last reading of it, I am still moved by
the passion and power of the story. It is certainly among
the best fiction I have read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this after hearing the author and his books discussed on NPR and I wasn't disappointed. I took their recommendation and started this 3 book series by reading the second book, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, first. I loved the development of the characters and their complex choices about family, love, and frienship. The story immediately draws you into the personal lives of the characters and deepens your understanding of what it felt like to be in that particular time of American history. The book covers a familiar theme, young men immigrating from Scotland in the early part of the 20th century to settle in the west and start their families. But it is such a personal, rolicking, adventure and love story that it reads like a new version of western stories. I can't wait to get the next book, English Creek, to continue the saga of the families.
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Format: Paperback
I had to start this book four times, but once I did I couldn't put it down. Doig has a very unique style of writing, this novel being one in the first person. Angus and Rob are two characters the reader feels for; the novel does a wonderful job of engaging us in their lives. For Montana history and landscape, this book cannot be beat; Doig's descriptions of the land makes one feel like they are standing there at the time. This is a very beautiful historical account of a much-forgotten piece of American history.
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By A Customer on December 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I usually read science fiction, but I picked this up by chance. The writing is remarkable, Doig is a master of beautiful, flowing prose, excellent characterization, and story telling. The plot is very strong yet subtle, and I rapidly flew through the book; I was as hooked as I have ever been. Without giving anything away I just want to say that this is one of the best pieces of literature that I have read in many years.
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