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Lonesome Dove (1985)

by Larry McMurtry

Series: Lonesome Dove (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,4422231,010 (4.54)1 / 906
Chronicles a cattle drive in the nineteenth century from Texas to Montana, and follows the lives of Gus and Call, the cowboys heading the drive, Gus's woman, Lorena, and Blue Duck, a sinister Indian renegade.
  1. 40
    The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy (paulkid)
    paulkid: Epic Westerns set in Texas and Mexico, McMurtry is more somber, McCarthy more dark.
  2. 41
    Shane by Jack Schaefer (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 31
    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both have a wonderful, authentic flavor of the old west.
  4. 31
    Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Western
  5. 10
    Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (sturlington)
  6. 10
    News of the World by Paulette Jiles (Ciruelo)
  7. 00
    The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Both are immersive historical adventure stories with a great cast of characters, heart and a sense of humor.
  8. 00
    The New Mexico Trilogy by John Nichols (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Much more enjoyable!
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English (222)  Italian (1)  All languages (223)
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
In a momentary lapse of self-control, I picked up my copy of Lonesome Dove and got lost once more in the wonder that is Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call and all the assorted characters that people their world. If anyone ever asked me if I had been to Montana, I would have to say “yes”, and every step of land between the Milk River and Lonesome Dove, Texas. Never has a story felt more real, been more packed with personalities, more genuine in its depiction of place, or more perfectly told.

Even the characters you do not admire, you sadly understand. When McMurtry says of Elmira Johnson:

She wanted July and Joe to be gone, suddenly, so she would not have to deal with them every day. Their needs were modest enough, but she no longer wanted to face them. She had reached a point where doing anything for anyone was a strain. It was like heavy work, it was so hard.

you momentarily understand what drives her. She is living a life she does not want in being a wife and mother, and the attempt to do that is a burden she can no longer carry. It doesn’t matter that her life is not a bad life, what matters is that it is not, any longer, “her” life.

In fact, this book might mostly be about people seeking, often to their own detriment, the lives they have lost. Each of them has an ideal in their head that they are chasing: Call has Montana; Gus has Clara; Lorie has San Francisco; Ellie has Dee Boot; Clara has the idea of a son, all yearnings based on losses they have already experienced.

The book is peppered with wit and humor, and with wisdom. Even in its tragic moments, Gus is able to infuse both of those elements into the situation. He gives advice in such a folksy, off-hand, manner, but the truth lying beneath his observations is never lost on the reader.

Life in San Francisco is still just life. If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk--and feisty gentlemen.

This is the fastest 900 page novel you will ever read. It never slows or hits patches that you want to speed through. You feel the elements in the descriptions of the weather, the weight of the losses, the constant danger of just living in this place and time; but you never want it to stop. You want to travel beyond the next river, scrape off the mud, and then cross another plain or find another grassland. You want to sleep in the saddle because you are exhausted and then share a plate of Bol’s beans or Po Campo’s fried grasshoppers.

If there was ever a versatile writer, it was Larry McMurtry. This is far from being the only magnificent novel he produced, but it is far and away his best. It is iconic and unparalleled in its scope and its accomplishment. If you like character driven novels of epic proportions, but you’re thinking you don’t like “westerns”, don’t miss this remarkable book. It is a masterpiece that happens to be set in the West and deals with so much more than a simple review, like this one, can ever express.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Wow, what an unexpected joy to read. I went in knowing nothing about the popularity, the miniseries, or anything else about the book or series. The book does have some length but that shouldn't scare someone off from reading it. The book is balanced on all fronts. It has enough slow pacing to show the time period and the type of travel taking place but it doesn't drag out to where it becomes boring. It also doesn't skip huge amounts of time (during the course of the main story) where it feels like it's jumping way too much. Likewise, there are many characters introduced in the book but they are all fully fleshed out as needed. A lesser author would introduce characters just enough to use them as cannon fodder but even the side bad guy has enough backstory and personality to work. And on the flip side, there aren't too many characters to be confusing or needing a chart to keep them all straight. The plot is fairly straight forward and is not some grand epic event - which is unique for this type of genre. The pacing is really good. The slow parts feel slow for a reason but that's when characters are fleshed out more or backstory comes in to play. But when there's action, it really does hit you in the face. You read about cattle driving and BOOM it switches to an Indian attack and it's over quickly. Just like a real skirmish. When reading, I got to the middle of the book and thought about just what specific event put the whole story into play and it was fun because there are many different starting points and threads to trace back and have a discussion on what actually set it off. Overall a fun read and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. I had a lot of fun with this one. Final Grade - A ( )
  agentx216 | Aug 1, 2022 |
I'm not gonna lie to you, the first 40%, I was P A T I E N T L Y waiting for the "Lord of the Rings of the West" I had been promised to kick in... but boy, did it ever in the last half! Couldn't put it down.

I am only mildly embarrassed to admit that McMurtry’s writing made me check more than once, if Lonesome Dove was published in 1890– The golden vistas, arid landscapes, and the hard men and women that are described, all feel so real.

Gus and Cal were a pair of tough boys who thought they could move on from their tough ways. But, once a Ranger, always a Ranger.

Also, life is fleeting. We're all just grapes on a vine, YA KNOW?!

Life happens. No matter how rich or important you are. You could be ten minutes away from being vaporized by Mother Nature. Be it a water moccasin bite, or horse bandit.

But, there is more to it than the melancholy of helplessness, too.

Our Taoist Texas Rangers, Gus and Cal, learned to live everyday and see it for the gift that it is, and so can we. ( )
  Chuck_ep | Jul 18, 2022 |
I have never been a big western fan but I loved this book. It was smart, funny, tragic and hopeful. With character names like Soup, Dish and Spoon, it makes me wonder if Larry McMurtry was hungry when he wrote. I️ love wild and impulsive Janey. I️ enjoy how many varied female characters are in this book. They are determined and brave in their own ways just as much as the men.

Be forewarned there is a lot that can trigger crying spells. ( )
  christyco125 | Jul 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
All of Mr. McMurtry's antimythic groundwork -his refusal to glorify the West - works to reinforce the strength of the traditionally mythic parts of ''Lonesome Dove,'' by making it far more credible than the old familiar horse operas. These are real people, and they are still larger than life. The aspects of cowboying that we have found stirring for so long are, inevitably, the aspects that are stirring when given full-dress treatment by a first-rate novelist. Toward the end, through a complicated series of plot twists, Mr. McMurtry tries to show how pathetically inadequate the frontier ethos is when confronted with any facet of life but the frontier; but by that time the reader's emotional response is it does not matter - these men drove cattle to Montana!

added by Stir | editNew York Times, Necholas Lemann (Jun 9, 1985)
 
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Epigraph
All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.
T.K. Whipple, Study Out the Land
Dedication
For Maureen Orth,
and
In memory of
the nine McMurtry boys
(1878-1983)
"Once in the saddle they
Used to go dashing . . ."
First words
When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake—not a very big one.
Fictions - in my case, novels only, to the tune of about thirty - starts in tactile motion; pecking out a few sentences on a typewriter; sentences that might encourage me and perhaps a few potential readers to press on. (Preface)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Chronicles a cattle drive in the nineteenth century from Texas to Montana, and follows the lives of Gus and Call, the cowboys heading the drive, Gus's woman, Lorena, and Blue Duck, a sinister Indian renegade.

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Average: (4.54)
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