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The Son (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction…
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The Son (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists) (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Philipp Meyer

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1,158717,025 (4)101
Member:TheAlternativeOne
Title:The Son (Pulitzer Prize in Letters: Fiction Finalists)
Authors:Philipp Meyer
Info:Ecco (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Western

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The Son by Philipp Meyer (2013)

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Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
The Son of the title is more than just Eli McCulloughand this book is more than just the story of Texas. I wasn't entirely convinced by the voice of Jeannie McCullough and it it took a wee while to keep track of the generations, but the last 100 pages are magnificent. and I learnt a huge amount about Native Americans and the history of that part of America. ( )
  Deborahrs | Apr 15, 2017 |
I had loved Meyer's American Rust when I read it during a holiday in Pennsylvania a couple of years back; a trip to Texas last week seemed like a good excuse to read his follow-up, which showed every sign of being a culmination of his many talents. The Son is a sprawling, multigenerational family tale, not a million miles away from the kind of AGA-saga that people like Joanna Trollope have been writing for years, though because the author is male and American the book – which in alternating chapters follows the members of three different generations from the 1830s to the present day – has been lauded as some kind of revolution in narrative structure.

The earliest storyline, which is by far the most compelling (there's problem one), consists of a first-person account by the family patriarch, who was abducted by Comanches and brought up first as a slave and eventually as an accepted member of the tribe. Here Meyer is in fine deadpan Western mode, channelling Faulkner and – especially – inviting risky comparisons with Cormac McCarthy, in relation to whom Meyer occasionally seems almost to be a pasticheur:

By sundown the walls of the canyon looked to be on fire and the clouds coming off the prairie were glowing like smoke in the light, as if this place were His forge and the Creator himself were still fashioning the earth.

Meyer's prose style is not as distinctive as McCarthy's, and he doesn't have quite the same bleakness of vision (Meyer reacts to man's violence with weariness and sympathy, while McCarthy reacts with pure horror), but he does have a stronger sense of plot and incident. Following Eli McCullough's early life as a Comanche captive is totally compelling from a purely narrative point of view, the inside portrayal of Comanche life is impressively convincing, and interleaving the stories of Eli's descendants makes it very clear how this violence was handed down to future generations.

There is a practical point being made here, which appealed to me: it's not anything high-flown about the metaphysics of conflict and death, but rather about the sober realities of how the American West was built on constant cycles of killing – whether of animals, Native Americans, Mexicans or neighbours – and how these cycles do not just replay endlessly in place but are also even exported (notice how later generations of McCulloughs, heavily involved in the oil industry, discuss creating further opportunities in Iran and Iraq).

On the ranch they had found points from both the Clovis and the Folsom, and while Jesus was walking to Calvary the Mogollon people were bashing each other with stone axes. When the Spanish came there were the Suma, Jumano, Manso, La Junta, Concho and Chisos and Toboso, Ocana and Cacaxtle, the Coahuiltecans, Comecrudos…but whether they had wiped out the Mogollons or were descended from them, no one knew. They were all wiped out by the Apaches. Who were in turn wiped out, in Texas anyway, by the Comanches. Who were finally wiped out by the Americans.

The book's title, then, doesn't refer to any son in particular. Rather, it brings to mind Biblical warnings about where the sins of the father will be visited: that sense of retribution, unfairness, and cyclical violence is what the novel is finally about. The cycles have not stopped and they show every sign of continuing to play out until we're all long gone.

The question is, do you need six hundred pages to illustrate that point? I felt that you didn't, and the book overstayed its welcome slightly for me; from around the halfway mark, I was silently urging, yes, yes, we get it and battling a growing sense that the more modern strands of narrative were underdeveloped and contributing little – they wouldn't stand on their own two feet and only worked as adjuncts to the richer story of the 1860s.

This practical problem, I suspect, is what motivated the novel's structure. Nevertheless, there are passages in here, of Comanche raids and southwestern hoodoos, that I wouldn't have missed for anything; and as a man-hands-on-misery-to-man family drama, it's full of gruff charm, emotional resonance, and pointed reflections on what lies behind the making of America. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Apr 1, 2017 |
This long family saga set in Texas is primarily told from the point of view of three related characters of different generations. Unfortunately, I found the story of only one of the characters interesting and even that storyline sort of petered out. Eli McCullough is taken by the Comanche when he is 12 and lives with them until he is 16. I liked his description of life with his captors, who became his new family. His life after he returned to live with white people also had an interesting progression. In contrast, the lives of the other two protagonists had no progression at all and did not interest me very much. The story of Eli's son Peter is mostly about the murder of Mexicans by the white Texans who then stole their land. There was also Peter's affair with a Mexican woman, which probably wasn't a good idea for either of them. The chapters of the book dealing with Eli's great granddaughter were like episodes of Dallas - all money, politics and oil deals. Also there was a lot of whining about the problems of a woman in a man's world (which are hard to take seriously coming from someone enormously wealthy). I don't think the blurb does this book any favors by comparing it to the work of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy.

I'd had this book for a while but only decided to read it when I heard about the upcoming TV series based on the book. After listening to the audiobook, I'm still undecided about whether or not I want to watch the series. I can easily see it sinking in a morass of sex and violence. The audiobook had multiple narrators and I particularly liked the narration of the Eli chapters by Will Patton. ( )
  fhudnell | Mar 22, 2017 |
A brilliant sprawling tale of a Great American Family. The Eli sections - a more accessible, less gruesome Blood Meridian - are so good that they outshine the other two strands quite dramatically, but it's fun flicking back and forth in time to see quite how the formidable patriarch's reputation was formed. ( )
  alexrichman | Mar 14, 2017 |
Meyer's book is a sprawling family chronicle told through the eyes of four members of the McCullough family spanning from the 1830s to modern times. Only one of the characters, family patriarch Eli has a story that is compelling enough to keep me wanting more. Kidnapped as a boy and raised by Comanches, he later goes on to become a Texas Ranger and Confederate officer before starting his family empire. I liked his character so much that all others were pale caricatures by comparison. ( )
  Unkletom | Mar 3, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philipp Meyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and most civilised portion of mankind.... ....its genenius wa humbled in the dust; and armies of unknown Barbarians issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa. ...the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works...buries empires and cities in a common grave. ---------------Edward Gibbon
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For my family
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It was prophesied I would live to see one hundred and having achieved that age I see no reason to doubt it.
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Comanche Indian captive Eli McCullough must carve a place for himself in a world in which he does not fully belong -- a journey of adventure, tragedy, hardship, grit, and luck that reverberates in the lives of his progeny.

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