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Lonesome Dove: A Novel Paperback – June 15, 2010
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Larry McMurtry, in books like The Last Picture Show, has depicted the modern degeneration of the myth of the American West. The subject of Lonesome Dove, cowboys herding cattle on a great trail-drive, seems like the very stuff of that cliched myth, but McMurtry bravely tackles the task of creating meaningful literature out of it. At first the novel seems the kind of anti-mythic, anti-heroic story one might expect: the main protagonists are a drunken and inarticulate pair of former Texas Rangers turned horse rustlers. Yet when the trail begins, the story picks up an energy and a drive that makes heroes of these men. Their mission may be historically insignificant, or pointless--McMurtry is smart enough to address both possibilities--but there is an undoubted valor in their lives. The result is a historically aware, intelligent, romantic novel of the mythic west that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. --This text refers to the Turtleback edition.
“If you read only one western novel in your life, read Lonesome Dove.”—USA Today
“Everything about Lonesome Dove feels true . . . These are real people, and they are still larger than life.”—Nicholas Lemann, The New York Times Book Review
“Lonesome Dove is Larry McMurtry’s loftiest novel."—Los Angeles Times
"A marvelous novel . . . moves with joyous energy . . . amply imagined and crisply, lovingly written. I haven't enjoyed a book more this year . . . a joyous epic."--Newsweek
"The finest novel that McMurtry has yet accomplished . . . Lonesome Dove has all the action anyone could possibly imagine . . . [and] both in general and in details, the authority of exact authenticity . . . superb."--Chicago Tribune
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is a masterpiece. It's captivating and, frankly, quite remarkable. It's more than a western. It's more than a novel. It's a wonderfully thought-out story about America in an almost mythical time with so much depth and so many layers that reward readers over and over again. The story, in fact, has so much depth and so many layers, that it would be easy for a reader to miss the one consistent, central theme of the story. Thus the reader must work attentively through it just as the cowboys must, lest they find themselves lost looking for the Powder River in a mighty dust storm. The story is powerful both because it is wonderfully fantastic and because it is frighteningly real. The essence of much of our world can be related or explained by the narrative in an enduring way.
McMurtry does a wonderful time with all of his characters. Main characters, supporting characters, passing throw-away extras -- all of them. He doesn't waste time (yours or his) with any conversation or internal monologue that doesn't give insight through forming or developing that character as the story evolves. You'll see every situation from multiple points of view. You'll be shown honesty and delusion, naivety and wisdom, love and dependence, hate and despair. It can be heart-breaking. At times, I'm certain, it's supposed to be (if you're paying attention). You will both know and be bewildered by these characters, just like the people in your life.
The book is not the typical western. It at no point has the processed and canned feel of a writer following a formula.
So, to those who don't think they'll like it because they didn't like other westerns: Don't worry. It's different. Read it.
And to those who like westerns: Don't worry. This is better than probably any you've read. Read 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.
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.