Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

While I was compiling my list of American classics to read I thought that I should have at least one Western in there. Not being at all familiar with this genre I chose Lonesome Dove as its Pulitzer Prize winning credentials gave me some reassurance.

I have to admit that I almost rethought this when the novel arrived from Amazon and I then realised that Lonesome Dove is over 950 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to tackle a massive epic book over 950 pages under normal circumstances, but this was a genre I wasn’t familiar with or even overly interested in. But heck I will give almost anything a whirl and I did as part of a read-along hosted by My Friend Amy, reading a manageable ten chapters a week.

Having never read this genre before I was not sure what to expect. What I did get were good guys, bad guys, gun fights, harsh landscapes and the odd damsel in distress and I loved every bit of it.

The plot in essence are the adventures of the Hat Creek Cattle Company as they make their way from Texas to Montana driving their cattle. Of course the author has to keep the readers attention for 950+ pages so there are a huge array of characters all with interesting back-stories, an epic plot in which you find plenty of sub-plots and some twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. I was certainly never bored.

The characters are likeable because they are depicted honestly rather than the clich├ęs they could have been but what surprised me most about this novel was the humour. There are a lot of laugh out loud funny moments in this book and I found myself chuckling in quite a few places.

The ending did feel a little rushed, almost as if the author was in a hurry to finish the job and quickly round everything up but I can forgive him for the 40 or so pages at the end when the other 900+ ones were so brilliant.

I never thought I would enjoy this book as much as I did but I really loved it. As a result I be participating in the Western Read-a-long hosted by C.B.James in May. The read-along is easy, all you have to do is read one western book during the month of May and the details can be found here.

It just goes to show that its sometimes a very good idea to venture into a genre you are not at all familiar with and I'd urge anyone who hasn't to give the Western a whirl.

Posted by Jess


  1. Agreed...I loved the book, but the ending, although satisfying, was far too quick for me.

  2. I'm glad to have you aboard the western read-a-long challenge. And glad to hear you enjoyed Lonesome Dove. It's considered one of the best in the genre. I'd argue it should be conisdered one of the best American novels.

    I have it on my TBR shelf to reread soon. I don't remember a problem with the ending. I think it's typical of cattle drive stories to have a rushed feel at the end. Sort of like how the last two days of a vacation are always something of a let down.

  3. I loved the humor! I know I've heard people say (and I think I've seen it on one of the covers) that if you're only going to read one western, this is it. I'd love to try out something by Louis L'Amour, but now do I pick which one? There are so many!

  4. I'm still battling my way through this book. I'm about 350 pages in and it is starting to pick up, but there always seems to be something else I'd rather read. I can't imagine the ending being too rushed, but I look forward to finding out. I will make it to the end eventually.

  5. I really dislike Westerns, but you've made Lonesome Dove sound enticing! I want to like this genre being a Westerner myself (Arizonan), but just can't get into them. I might have to try again.

  6. I was also surprised by the humor! I didn't expect the book to have so much amidst the tragedy. I'm also going to read a Western in May. :)

  7. I’m not a fan of westerns at all, but I loved this one too. I was expecting more action, but it was really an intimate story of a small group of characters.

  8. I was only recently made aware of Lonesome Dove, having been convinced to read it after reading a description of it that focused more on the "epic" adventure part than the "western" part. I haven't read many westerns outside of young adult historical fiction, but I'm absolutely going to have to read this...

  9. It was wasn't it? Almost like the author couldn't just leave it and had to have a proper ending.

    C.B. James - Sort of like how the last two days of a vacation are always something of a let down.

    That made me laugh ;) Its certainly one of the best epics I've read but I don't want to read the other books as I'm quite happy to leave the characters where they are.

    Shelley - my knowledge of westerns is about 0 so I haven't a clue! I'd like to read Deadwood next I think.

    farmlanebooks - I read it very very slowly and it took me weeks asI was part of the read-along but I was quite happy with that pace so I wouldn't worry too much about ruching through.

    Anbolyn - I dont like Western films aside from a couple so I'm really not a fan either but it was different reading it.

    Avid Reader - I think that it, there aren't loads of gun fights or macho idiots like you get sometimes in the films.

    Biblibio - I hope you enjoy it if you do get around to it, its certainly worth giving a go if nothing else.

  10. This is one genre that I never read. Your review makes me want to try, but I'm not sure I want to commit to 950 pages, lol.
    Maybe I'll look for something shorter...

  11. Lonesome Dove is no ordinary western. I don't read many, but I loved it also, as well as Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa. Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses is good, too.