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All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1) Paperback – Print, June 29, 1993

4.2 out of 5 stars 752 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Border Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This is a novel so exuberant in its prose, so offbeat in its setting and so mordant and profound in its deliberations that one searches in vain for comparisons in American literature. None of McCarthy's previous works, not even the award-winning The Orchard Keeper (1965) or the much-admired Blood Meridian (1985), quite prepares the reader for the singular achievement of this first installment in the projected Border Trilogy. John Grady Cole is a 16-year-old boy who leaves his Texas home when his grandfather dies. With his parents already split up and his mother working in theater out of town, there is no longer reason for him to stay. He and his friend Lacey Rawlins ride their horses south into Mexico; they are joined by another boy, the mysterious Jimmy Blevins, a 14-year-old sharpshooter. Although the year is 1948, the landscape--at some moments parched and unforgiving, at others verdant and gentled by rain--seems out of time, somewhere before history or after it. These likable boys affect the cowboy's taciturnity--they roll cigarettes and say what they mean--and yet amongst themselves are given to terse, comic exchanges about life and death. In McCarthy's unblinking imagination the boys suffer truly harrowing encounters with corrupt Mexican officials, enigmatic bandits and a desert weather that roils like an angry god. Though some readers may grow impatient with the wild prairie rhythms of McCarthy's language, others will find his voice completely transporting. In what is perhaps the book's most spectacular feat, horses and men are joined in a philosophical union made manifest in the muscular pulse of the prose and the brute dignity of the characters. "What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them," the narrator says of John Grady. As a bonus, Grady endures a tragic love affair with the daughter of a rich Spanish Hacendado , a romance, one hopes, to be resumed later in the trilogy.
Copyright 1992 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: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 29, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744399
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (752 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Here are three amazing books, and one amazing saga, all together in one brimming volume you can throw into a backpack.

The first novel, "All the Pretty Horses" is one of the most beautifully told stories I've ever read. Not only is the writing here packed with imagery, and the story one of McCarthy's most accessible, but the textures of the words used to describe the images are as lush and as enfolding as anything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote--even when McCarthy's describing the driest of desert plains, the most desolate of ruins, or the emptiest of lives.

The book tells the story of two young friends who leave home in 1948 Texas to ride south into northern Mexico in search of SOMETHING. What happens along the way is tragic and amusing, lovely and gripping, real and amazing. McCarthy seems to paint every scene perfectly, yet he does so using the fewest amount of words possible, and the simplest of details.

"The gray and malignant dawn." "Stars falling down the long black slope of the firmament." "The shelving clouds." "Their windtattered fire." "Narrow spires of smoke standing vertically into the windless dawn so still the village seemed to hang by threads from the darkness."

Long sentences shroud the reader in the events of every scene, and the author's trademark quote-sign-less dialogue gives every conversation a very biblical feel.

The trilogy's second book, "The Crossing" has only thematic and geographical elements in common with the first. The story deals with a completely different character, Billy Parham, a son in a late-1930s New Mexican ranching family. Billy traps a wolf that has been killing his father's cattle but realizes he morally can't kill it and has to return it to its home in the mountains of old Mexico.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You read the first sentence of a Cormac McCarthy novel and you know that this is not Grisham or Connolly or Child or Crichton or King, certainly not Patterson, or anyone else writing fiction today. And before the first page is turned he has launched into one of his frenetic poetic riffs that lurches and rambles and stops and starts and doesn't care about punctuation and you can almost hear your high school English teacher scolding about grammar and run-on sentences but you know that she could never even hope to string words together like this even if she dared. And then you realize that maybe you've actually never really understood the English language at all because no one before has ever ripped it and bent it and twisted it as beautifully as McCarthy does while making it all look so easy.

So were it not for McCarthy's ferocious prose, "All the Pretty Horses" may have been just another coming of age story. But in McCarthy's special corner of hell, along with the obligatory introduction to "young love", passage to adulthood may include exile in a foreign country, being hunted on horseback across a barren desert, variously stabbed, shot, tortured, or imprisoned. John Grady Cole is a sixteen year-old son of a Texas rancher who, up until his grandfather's death, worked the ranch and developed an uncommon kinship with horses. With his grandfather gone, his father dying, and his mother flitting around the cultural scene in post-WWII San Antonio, John Grady sets out on horseback for Mexico with buddy Lacey Rawlings.
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Format: Hardcover
These three novels should establish Cormac McCarthy as a worthy inheritor of the mantle worn by William Faulkner. The first, All The Pretty Horses is probably the best because it introduces John Grady Cole, who should join the ranks of legendary fictional heroes. His story is concluded in Cities of the Plain the last of the trilogy which contains an account of a knife fight that is almost unbearable in it intensity. The second novel,The Crossing is in my opinion, the weakest of the three,although the first 100 or so pages which describe the relationship between a boy and a wolf he has trapped is as good as anything in the trilogy. McCarthys description of ranch life on the New Mexico-Mexico border in the 1940s and early '50s is so pure that one can almost feel the icy wind as it cuts through the characters as they ride south to meet their fate in old Mexico. This is a great book and Cormac McCarthy is among the greatest novelists of our time.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read the entire Border Trilogy at least three times now, and I've read each of McCarthy's other novels at least once. Now, I'm dying to see what he writes next.

The language is lyrical and poetic, sometimes short and choppy in the language of McCarthy's young cowboy protagonists, sometimes long and surreal in his descriptions of horses, landscape, and dreams. The language finally emerges as a living character of the novel, equally shaping the narrative and its power, separate from the plot line and journey motif.

His storytelling ability is unmatched as he weaves storytelling characters into the bildungsromanesque journeys of John Grady Cole and Billy Parham. These interlocutors relate intricate stories that allow us to witness tales being both told and witnessed, creating a double effect on us through our connectivity to the characters. McCarthy uses his own wonderful narrative to reflect on the power of the narrative event and the act of storytelling. He truly raises the standard for today's writers, for not only does his language transcend the pitter-patter of most so-called literature, his ability to weave marvelous stories and reflect on his role as narrator makes him a writer worth reckoning with. In fact, I just completed a thesis based on this set of three novels for my MA in English at BYU. Read them in order, or read them separately, "All the Pretty Horses" will draw you in with its sometimes intense sometimes comical language and bloody violence. "The Crossing" will captivate you in its complexity and depth, as well as its realistic, terribly moving portrayal of a young man alone and lonely. Finally, "Cities of the Plain" will make you laugh and cry as the protagonists are brought together in a domestic setting and move toward their destinies, each preset by McCarthy himself.

Read everything he has written. You will ache for more.
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