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Showing 1-10 of 46 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 70 reviews
VINE VOICEon August 30, 2012
The "great American novel" is something that is often spoken of but rarely seen. Critics use that sobriquet far too often for books that don't merit more than a passing glance. But occasionally, a novel appears that is a good candidate for that phrase. And it has just been republished in a new edition!

Raintree County, "which had no boundaries in time and space, where lurked musical and strange names and mythical and lost peoples, and which was itself only a name musical and strange,"? by Ross Lockridge Jr., was published in 1948 to critical and popular acclaim. This 1,066-page novel attempted to translate the American experience to paper through the eyes and experiences of a seemingly banal character, John Wickliff Shawnessy, "pagan and Pilgrim, poet and poem, idealist and idea"? (Charles Lee, writing in the New York Times in January, 1948). Over a period of 24 hours, as Waycross, Indiana, celebrates the Fourth of July, 1892, Shawnessy looks back on his life since 1844, through a series of flashbacks, interspersed with narrative of the celebratory day. He sees his youth, his first experience of pure feminine beauty, his first loves, then the great American tragedy: the Civil War. As the book goes on, we follow this Leopold Bloom of the Midwest through his peregrinations, until the past rejoins the present and the day ends.

It's hard to sum up such a book. It's the story of a quest; a quest for the sacred tree of life, the raintree. A quest for origins; for the origins of life and of one man's life. It's a story of a man accepting the fate of death, "But if we could only resign ourselves to death, complete death, how much happier we'd be!" It's a story of a man and his family, his loves, his losses, the war (the Civil War) and how it forms his character.

Anyone reading this book will find that their life has a new milestone: a before- and after-Raintree Country. More than just the characters and narrative, what remains in the reader's memory is the juxtaposition of the simple, idyllic life in Waycross, Indiana, the proverbial "Anytown, USA" and the chaos of the Civil War or the pandemonium of New York City. Lockridge was seeking simplicity, and showed how it did exist, somewhere in the world, in a place not on any map. It's both a modernist and traditional novel - modernist in the way the book is structured, with flashbacks melding into present-day narrative, which, in turn, melds back into the past. But traditional in the way it is deeply human, the way its main subject is the life of a man. It has much of the Victorian novel, and is also a very Joycean novel. It belays influences as broad as Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner and Charles Dickens. Yet it is uniquely itself.
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on December 16, 2013
This is a very unusual book. I couldn't renew it at the library anymore so I had to have my own copy. I live in Indiana so it holds even more fascination for me. It's set in a fictional town but I consider it to be historical fiction and I love history. It takes some doing to keep all the events and characters in perspective, but it's worth the effort. The book was first written in the mid-40's, and my copy is from that era which makes it even more fascinating because it has the look and feel of an old book, the best kind. One interesting technique the author employees is that each chapter ends with an incomplete sentence which is completed at the beginning of the next chapter. Talk about how to keep you reading! Kind of like starting the next TV show right after the last one without a commercial break so you don't switch channels. I haven't gotten too far into the book yet, but I am looking forward to sitting down with it for a good long read.
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on October 5, 2009
In my humble opinion, a bookshelf without "Gone With The Wind" and "Raintree County" is a like a smile missing teeth. We're all familiar with "Gone With The Wind," the famous character-driven romance played out against the backdrop of the Civil War. Like it, "Raintree County" unfolds before, during, and after the Civil War, but unlike "GWTW," "Raintree County" is an allegory of the state of the union as it undergoes the single most wrenching event in US history.

The story centers around John Shawnessy, an idealistic youth in Indiana, his pure love for his hometown sweetheart, Nell Gaither, and his seduction by the beautiful but troubled southern belle, Susanna Drake.

The plot mirrors this country as it progress from a time of relative freedom and happiness before the Civil War, through its enmeshment with another culture -- that of the deep South -- and into the terrible consequences to all concerned.

There are some wars which are becoming abstractions, and the Civil War is one of them, but this book reopens the memory of the cost of this horrible war. This is a book of many layers. The more one starts to analyze it, the more depth is revealed. The writing style is unique. Like "John Brown's Body," this book should be an integral part of any study of the Civil War.

Sadly, its author, Ross Lockridge, was prone to depression. When this book was in production, Lockridge, married with young children, committed suicide. It's hard for me to imagine how he could have topped this book with any subsequent effort; perhaps he was afraid of that spectre of failure as well.

In the 1950's "Raintree County" was made into a lavish cinematic reply to "GWTW." The movie starred Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, and Elizabeth Taylor in the roles of the three principal characters; however, considerable creative license was taken with the plot, so don't make the mistake of thinking that if you've seen the movie, you've read the book. The book is much, much deeper and much darker....
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on May 6, 2017
The choices of a description of the plot do not do this novel justice. It is an extraordinary narrative, a way of telling a story that can not be pigeonholed. I have read it twice; the first time in 1974 and again in 1998. It is a neglected masterpiece like ONCE AN EAGLE by Anton Myrer and Robertson Davies' FIFTH BUSINESS. .

The movie version should be avoided at all costs.
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on April 28, 2017
A rediscovered classic I saw the movie when it first came out. Then at 11 years old I attempted to tackle the novel. This is an easy read that transports the reader back into a time so innocent until an event the Civil​ War changed America.
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on August 13, 2010
"Raintree County" is a magical book. I've read the book 5 or 6 times over the years and I continue to go back to it periodically as it has some kind of hold on me. The story of the unfolding of Johhny Shawnessy's life in a rural Indiana county spanning the mid and late nineteenth century is the only peek I've ever gotten into what life must have been like for my ancestors as they helped inhabit and build this nation during that tumultuous time. To me it's a work to be savored, sipped, drunk in and held on the tongue where hints of new flavors and scents appear and then vanish. The movie version of the book is a decent film but does not hold a candle to the written work. The filmakers could never have hoped to capture the essense of this book in a two hour movie and, so, should never have attempted it.

The book is a hidden gem, a buried treasure almost as long forgotten as the ficticious Indiana county itself until it was recently reprinted.

"Hard roads and wide will run through Raintree County. You will hunt it on the map but it won't be there. For Raintree County is not the country of the perishable fact. It is the country of the enduring fiction. The clock in the Court House Tower on page 5 of the Raintree County Altas is always fixed at nine o'clock, and it is summer and the days are long."

"Raintree County...which had no boundaries in time and space, where lurked musical and strange names and mythical and lost peoples, and which was itself only a name musical and strange."

It is indeed a magical book which has touched me in multiple ways. I will say the musical soundtrack of the movie is well done - haunting and touching. In order to do this book justice, they would have needed about a 20 hour miniseries format along with brilliant producers and directors and a talented cast and, oh yeah a ton of money. Don't let the mediocrity of the 50s film stop you from exposing yourself to this great read! And by the way, get yourself a copy of the book before it goes out of print again. The paperbook version now available was reprinted in 2007 but the book was out of print for quite a while before that. I think this book should be required reading by high school seniors or, if nothing else, college lit courses.
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on April 27, 2017
It is a good read. I watched the movie and decided to check out the book.
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on December 10, 2012
So glad to find this novel in KINDLE format. The hardcover book is very large to tote around which makes it more inconvenient. I found myself leaving the novel on the nightstand and only reading at bedtime. The portability of the KINDLE version motivates one to take the novel on the bus, on vacation, waiting at the dentist's office, etc.

Regardless of format, this is a long novel which requires quite a commitment of time to read - not unlike GONE WITH THE WIND or ATLAS SHRUGGED or WAR AND PEACE - but it is worth it to persevere to the last page. :0)
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on May 28, 2015
An excellent work of historical fiction. It both follows a young man's and a young nation's coming of age. The focal historical event is the Civil War. The aftermath is a loss of innocence and increased mechanization. The majority of the book is spent reminiscing-with the remainder touching on events of 07/04/1892. Almost surreal with the philosophic ramblings.
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on February 5, 2016
This novel is an American classic!!! And I don't often read fiction. I first read this while in the Army back in the early 60s and have picked it up a few times since. The story tells the American legend of westward expansion, pioneers, braggers, warriors, romantic love, dreams of paradise, and our deadly Civil War. In one book it tells the story of the 1800s and why we are the people we are today.
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