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The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy

The Border Trilogy

by Cormac McCarthy

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1,093167,605 (4.35)19
  1. 00
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (paulkid)
    paulkid: Epic Westerns set in Texas and Mexico, McMurtry is more somber, McCarthy more dark.

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English (13)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Book 1 - "All The Pretty Horses" is the story of John Grady Cole, a modern-day cowboy. In 1949 his parents split up, his grandfather dies, and the family ranch is sold. John Grady is left to fend for himself at age 17, and grows up real fast when he travels to Mexico and gets in trouble with Mexican bandits and corrupt law enforcement. Rated 5 Stars.

Book 2 - "The Crossing" drops back to 1940 and is the story of Billy Parham. He’s also a modern-day cowboy, and Billy is 16 when he leaves home and crosses the border into Mexico. And like John Grady, he is also in for a rude awakening to discover it’s a harsh cruel world out there in the Mexican wilderness. Rated 4.5 Stars.

"Cities of the Plain" is the 3rd book of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. "Cities of the Plain" is a raw, emotional haunting tale. Not exactly what I expected for the final book of The Border Trilogy. But I should have known better since McCarthy’s style is bleak realism. And while there are some humorous moments throughout the series, the plot underscores the random unpredictability of life, the harsh reality of human behavior, and the insignificance of one human being in the big picture of the universe.

Both boys are strong, disciplined, and independent - loners, traveling around Texas doing odd jobs at western ranches when they meet up in "Cities of the Plain". It’s 1952 and Billy is 28 years old and has been drifting for 12 years. His parents, sister, and only brother are all dead, and Billy hasn’t a friend on the world. Billy immediately sees a kindred spirit in John Grady. They both appear to be out-laws but that is mostly because they fear no man and live by their own rules. Perhaps they were destined to meet. But for what purpose? It certainly didn’t benefit either one of them in the long run - except for one brief moment in time when they could feel they were not totally alone in the world. The darkness, cruelty, and sadness of this tragic tale was more than I bargained for.

I was contemplating rating "Cities of the Plain" 4 or 4.5 Stars because the excessively primitive writing style was getting annoying.... I sometimes had to read whole pages several times to figure out who was talking and the lack of punctuation is often distracting and confusing. All three books of the trilogy are in the same unconventional writing style, but the dialogue gets even more ambiguous and confusing in "Cities of the Plain".

And then I got to the Epilogue. The Epilogue is a short story told 50 years later when Billy is 78 years old. My highest rating - 5 Stars - is not enough to express the powerful message McCarthy conveys to the reader. It is a philosophical message about the passing of time, the inevitability of death, and the meaning of life. Beautifully written - and captivating. All the advice the old sages gave Billy in The Crossing has come true. I read the Epilogue 3 times. I’m still thinking about it! My final analysis - as a stand-alone novel "Cities of the Plain" is rated 4.5 Stars.

For the complete Border Trilogy my rating is 5 Stars. ( )
  LadyLo | Mar 28, 2016 |
The first McCarthy books I ever read. I don't collect books, but if I did I would buy and keep these. My absolute favorite books of all time. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
The Crossing is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. The language is so rich and descriptive. I have never had a book bring me to tears like this one, I couldn't stop crying. ( )
  Insolito | May 19, 2014 |
I ordered this trilogy as a result of having read McCarthy’s The Road and seen No Country For Old Men. The New Mexico/Texas/Mexico border country is the locale for all three of these stories, in the years surrounding the Second World War. The first two are coming of age adventures featuring young cowboys, while the third brings together the young protagonists of the first two.

In All the Pretty Horses we are introduced to young John Grady Cole, a horse whisperer of sorts who is in the process of being dispossessed of the New Mexico family spread. Along with his friend Lacey Rawlins, Cole lights out for Mexico and adventure. Falling in with a third boy, Jimmy Blevins, acts to bring the trio all the adventure they could ever hope for, most of it of the unwelcome sort.

In The Crossing, we find another New Mexico family. A wolf invades the local range and the Parham family sets out to trap and remove it. Billy Parham, the oldest son, comes upon the trapped, pregnant she wolf and is moved to relocate it back to its Mexican home rather than kill it. Parham crosses back and forth into and out of Mexico in the succeeding three years, ultimately joining forces with his younger brother Boyd. This is a far more tragic tale then the earlier story.

In Cities of the Plain, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham come together as ranch hands on a spread near El Paso. Like The Crossing, this is a sad and depressing tale.

Westerns are not a genre that I have frequently read, though Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite novels. The writing in these three stories is so authentic and haunting in its imagery and descriptiveness as to be stunning. This is some of the best writing I have ever come across, regardless of genre. Magnificent work.

I do have two complaints however, which diminish the work in my eyes considerably, not in the quality of its writing or storytelling, but in my personal reading experience. The first has to do with the very frequent, sometimes extensive Spanish dialogue. Granted, most of the Spanish is very basic, and I was even able at times to figure the gist of the conversations. At others however, entire paragraphs and sometimes as much as a page is consumed with Spanish conversation, sometimes at very key, highly compelling sections of the story. Having taken no Spanish and the book providing no footnotes or translations, what am I to do, go purchase a Spanish/English dictionary or get out of bed and feed the lines into an internet translator? The device certainly lends authenticity to the story, but only to the benefit of McCarthy’s bilingual readers. I cannot for the life of me figure out the decision making process that allowed this.

Secondly, there are several instances throughout the stories where McCarthy engages in very detailed, sometimes technical expositions on highly technical processes. The first that comes to mind is the process by which John Grady Cole saddle breaks wild, untrained colts. The intention is to create a vivid picture in the readers mind. However, McCarthy utilizes terms of art and references tools and equipment which are meaningless to anyone other than either a horseman or a ranch hand. The effect is to dedicate pages of descriptive prose which mean absolutely nothing to the reader. Again, my option is to get out of bed and find a dictionary and then do some research on the internet to get some photos and articles on ropes, knots, halters, bridles and other cowboy equipment that would render the narrative meaningful.

In a nutshell, a highly educated cowboy or ranch hand, fluent in both English and Spanish would likely deem this to be the most magnificent book he’d ever come across, and he’d likely be correct. Failing on both counts, I’m left with 90% of the story being top rate and the other 10% leaving me to scratch my head. ( )
  santhony | Apr 25, 2012 |
Read together these three novels make sense. Reading the Crossing by itself, you might be baffled, because the plot is a little weird, but in The Cities of the Plain the plot lines come toegether. Fantastically written, really brings to life the border country, and the era in which the characters are in. One rule about books is that it should make you want to read more about a particular author, and it is the case here. ( )
1 vote charlie68 | Dec 15, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375407936, Hardcover)

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)


Available together in one volume for the first time, the three novels of Cormac McCarthy's award-winning and bestselling Border Trilogy constitute a genuine American epic.


Beginning with All the Pretty Horses and continuing through The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, McCarthy chronicles the lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico, poised on the edge of a world about to change forever. Hauntingly beautiful, filled with sorrow and humor, The Border Trilogy is a masterful elegy for the American frontier.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Cormac McCarthy's award-winning and bestselling trio of novels, The Border Trilogy, appearing here in one volume for the first time, constitutes a genuine American epic. The young men in these novels come of age on southwestern ranches in the 1930s, while across the border Mexico beckons them with its desolate beauty and the cruel promise of a place where a dreams are paid for in blood… (more)

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