Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):   A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last, defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, and always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.

And here's what I thought:  I love this book.  I've read it many times over the years, and my big paperback copy is now getting a little worn and yellowed.  But each time I read it, I enjoy it, even though I know what's going to happen in the story, because it's just such a great story.

For me, this book is the perfect example of how a wonderful storytelling sense can be combined with well-written, unforgettable characters, and merged with a steady pace.  From the beginning, we get a great sense of our main characters, and the life they're leading.  Even if you've never spent a lot of time out in the American West (or are that familiar with the history of the setting of the book), I think you get a good sense of what it was like.  McMurtry uses a lot of good imagery to paint a true sense of what life was like for the men and women who chose to live in places where things were dangerous a lot of the time.  And he doesn't shy away from details that are grim, which I like.  I don't want a sanitized version of things; I want something that makes me imagine what real life was like back then.

I admit, even though I know what's going to happen to the characters, I still get choked up at certain points.   Maybe it's because I get invested in these people each time I read the book --- because they're well-written.   Many of the characters are very compelling, not just the two main two (Call and McCrae).   And you don't just get one story here ---- there are a few running storylines that come together.  So, you get a sense of how intertwined people's lives could be, even if they intersect for only a short time.

The funny thing is, none of McMurtry's books have ever had the same kind of resonance with me.  I've tried a few, but I've never wanted to re-read them, and instead, just revisit this one book every so often.

There was a TV miniseries made of this book, which starred Tommy Lee Jones and Call, and Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae, and frankly, I think it's probably the best miniseries I've seen.  The casting felt spot-on, and now, that's who I imagine when I re-read the book.

You might think that westerns are your thing, and as a result, you might not pick up this book.  However, I'd encourage you to reconsider, especially if you like a page-turning adventure story, where the characters are compelling and sympathetic.   This is one heck of a book!

First lines:  When Augustus came out on the porch, the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake -- not a very big one.  It had probably just been crawling around looking for shade when it ran into the pigs.  They were having a fine tug-of-war with it, and its rattling days were over.  The sow had it by the neck, and the shoat had the tail.

Chunkster Challenge info:  At 945 pages (paperback edition), this is the final book for my Chunkster Challenge.  Woohoo!


Karen said...

I remember the mini series vaguely. It's so great to have a book that you can keep going back to and still love.

Kya said...

Westerns are not my thing but I agree this is a great book and a great mini-series. The characters transcend their setting and the story covers all human emotions and experiences. Thanks

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