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Raintree County

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  598 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Throughout a single day in 1892, John Shawnessy recalls the great moments of his life—from the love affairs of his youth in Indiana, to the battles of the Civil War, to the politics of the Gilded Age, to his homecoming as schoolteacher, husband, and father. Shawnessy is the epitome of the place and period in which he lives, a rural land of springlike women,shady gamblers,...more
Paperback, 1088 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 1948)
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This is a hard book to review: it will definitely not be everybody's cup of tea. I had started it once years before, then set it aside, and finally read it at a point in my life when I had the time and the patience. It is massive! But I've never read anything at all like it. It's about America and Americans, Time, Fantasy, the 19th Century, and lots more. Ultimately I found it to be a fascinating, provocative, and important work of American literature. At this point in time the 1957 MGM movie ad...more
"Raintree County" is an American version of Tolstoy's "War and Peace".
I've actually read "War and Peace". Lockridge's "Raintree County" rises to that level--and, in my estimation--surpasses it. I love the Russians--Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev. And I love Walt Whitman and Ross Lockridge for the same reason. They all have what the Spanish call "duende," what the American blacks clamor to express by the word "soul". These aren't weak, spineless, effete Victorians afraid of beauty, passion, shame...more
Jul 04, 2007 Frederick rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the idea of the Great American Novel
This gets a mention (or two or three) in Thomas Mallon's excellent novel about the year 1948, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. I've read bits and pieces of RAINTREE COUNTY, but the reason I know anything at all about it is that, sometime in the 1970s a dual biography of its author and the author of MISTER ROBERTS was reviewed on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Both authors had huge bestsellers the same year (1948) and, even though they did not know each other, they both did something very...more
Some reviewer wrote that the author knew a lot of words and used them all in Raintree County. It's true, on occasion he could have benefited from a more careful editor, but with the exception of a few tedious passages, I was very happy with this novel. It was creative, interesting, and thoughtful. The main character, Johnny Shawnessey, is a complex person. This is a good thing because the book is 1060 pages and it darn well better be gripping. I enjoyed the conceit of the entire novel spanning o...more
Keith Wright
Dec 13, 2007 Keith Wright rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in mythical panoramas that try to capture the nascient American spirit
The saying that it is not the destination but the path comes to mind when I think of this book. Johnny's attempt to find the mythical raintree, from which flows endless prosperity is the destination; however, it is the path, strewn with prototypes from American history, that stand out most in my mind. The prose remember in this way; in addition to being lyrical, like a river, each chapter ends in an incomplete sentence that is finished by the subject of the first sentence in the next chapter. It...more
Cym Lowell
It may seem odd to be writing a review of a book written more than 60 years ago. In my case, the book is vibrant and meaningful. Raintree County is set in a mythical part of Indiana close to where I grew up, in Bloomington. The author, Ross Lockridge Jr. lived just down the street from my family. He was a young man. He was also a friend of our neighbor, Alfred Kinsey, for whom my mother, Mildred Hawksworth Lowell a Professor of Library Science at Indiana University, was librarian for Dr. Kinsey’...more
Rachel Mahoney
There's a review already here by Sonnetal (sorry if I spelled this incorrectly) but it says it all. This is one of the GREAT American novels and it's been neglected. Lockridge killed himself in despair only two months after it was published, and selling well. His publisher had cut the extended dreamlike ending and it seems to have tipped over an already tippable soul. They were probably right. As it stands, this novel is almost perfect. I too love the Russians. Here was our Russian.
This forgotten beauty is close enough to the Great American Novel for me. It has everything such a idea contains: a sweeping look at America's most turbulent time on its own shores, a tremendous love story, glorious writing shot through with poetry, a mystical center that ought to lie at every story. People should read this. They need it.
A big beautiful book, lost to us, but it shouldn't be. It is so American, so poetic, so magical. Come back, Mr. Lockridge. You shouldn't have killed yourself.
Legend has it Johnny Appleseed wandered the midwest, carrying among his apple seeds a single, exotic seed from the golden Rain tree. ( Looking for a place it would flourish and grow, he planted it somewhere in Henry County, IN, the place where Ross Lockridge grew up.) Legend has it that those who find the Rain tree discover the realization of all dreams. Mr Lockridge takes us on a journey to find this sacred tree of life through the wanderings of John Wycliff Shawnessys life.

The story begins on...more
Stephen Gallup
This is an ambitious work, probably a conscious attempt at achieving the elusive Great American Novel. My copy is old, with small print that doesn't contrast well on somewhat yellowed pages -- and so my first reaction on picking it up was to question whether reading it would be worth the trouble. A few paragraphs in, the intelligent, sculpted prose settled that.

Still, I agree with reviewers who say the book is too long. My edition is 985 pages and by the time I got into the last few hundred I wa...more
Herman Wouk wrote in his intro to the edition I have that this is the Great American Novel. Well, maybe not, but it IS a great novel. This is one of those books that you could open at nearly any page and find something wonderful to quote. Lockridge creates his characters as inextricably tied to the very land of Raintree County; it shapes them, gives them life, calls them home, and helps them know their own identities. Its chronological setting is the latter half of the 19th century, with its cen...more
Heather Moore
I have a first edition of this. Great story! Love, loss, friendship, war; it has it all and is written perfectly.
Raise your hand if you have heard of Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.? I hadn't until Jared Carter handed me a copy of the book a few months ago. I very much wish I had found this book earlier, though, perhaps, I may not have enjoyed it as much (I did not really appreciate Moby-Dick until well after college). Speaking of Moby-Dick, I have always considered that novel THE American novel. Raintree County does not displace Melville's masterpiece, but it definitely comes in with the silver med...more
It is really unfortunate that Lockridge didn't live to write more. He is amazingly prescient in speaking to the future of the United States through a story about its past. His characterizations of the actors on the American stage are pitch perfect, the slimy politician, the corrupt financier, a hypocritical preacher man, a powerful Feminist, an actress whose character is a prism of the stage, and, while I leave an important number out, a quiet poet who remains home in the midwest while his frien...more
Kim Rendfeld
This book has an interesting story and gives the reader a look at 19th century Midwestern life before and after the Civil War. Its non-chronological structure places several emotional climaxes at the end.

However, it could have used tigher editing. This reader could have done without the dream sequences and did not need to know the characters' opinions of every philosophical subject.Some of the sexual attitudes expressed were also disturbing, even though this book is tame by today's standards.

He was always arriving in train stations from parts unknown to meet himself departing for unknown parts.

He emerged from his schooling with the conviction that Liberty and Union were one and inseparable, that George Washington was the greatest man who ever lived, and that two plus two equalled four in Raintree County and throughout the universe. Above all, he acquired a holy faith in the printed word.

Now we all agree, do we not, that no man can or does exist in rational society without a...more
The author was a distant relative of the family, so I got designated to be the one member of the family to actually finish it. It's billed as a Great American Novel, and that pretty much says it all - it's chock-full of all the self-important blowhardiness, vaguely drug-addled descriptive passages, and somnia-inducing length you'd expect. Not my style at all.
Wooden Boater
They say this is the Great American Novel and it is. Few seem to know it. Few seem to have read it. But it's exactly what the Great American Novel ought to be. Poetic, mystic, a deep connection to the land in a time of great turmoil, the conflict between the North and the South, and a mythical Raintree somewhere in Indiana. Superb.
Stuart Desbrisay
A wonderful, unique novel that deserves to be better known today. There may be too much of it, but it's overall quality is impressive. It is an elegiac portrait of America and Americans that is moving and sly and like nothing else! If you don't know this book, you should seek it out, it is an overlooked masterpiece.
Christine Sinclair
Yes, it's long, yes, it could have been edited a bit more, but it was so engrossing, so interestingly structured and surprisingly entertaining. It took me such a long time to read it; now I'M from Raintree County! I really admire Mr. Lockridge's way with words. Next, his son's memoir about his father's tragic suicide at age 33.
What a great book. It covers one day in a life, and the memories of a lifetime... Many may say that this is the Great American Novel. I agree. As I read it, the novel calls up images of America similar to Whitman. I highly recommend it.
Charr Skirvin
Having started this book several times in the past and having given up because it was sooooo long, I finally decided to give it the time it deserves. It's a wonderful book. I loved it.
Oh I remember reading this SO long ago and just lingering on each and every word. Its a wonderful book.
The writing style was so florid that I just couldn't get past it to enjoy the storyline or characters.
A total sleeper. Soaring. Could have used some editing; but brilliant and brilliantly written.
Seré muy breve. El domingo pasado llegué a la página número cien y el libro se descuajaringó. Es bastante antiguo, bastante ajado, con las líneas muy juntas, algunas letras borradas, las páginas muy amarillentas… tenía que descifrarlo más que leerlo. Cuando me quedé con una parte en la mano izquierda y la otra en la derecha mientras centenares de páginas volaban por la habitación me di cuenta de que no era una novela para mí. Y la abandoné.

Cuando no sé qué decir sobre una novela que no me ha gus...more
I haven't read any reviews on this so I'm actually looking forward to seeing what others think of this little book.
There was a story in those 1060 pages after all that kept me going. Considering that this book was written in 1947, it must have been quite risque at that time. Just about everything but instructions for installing the kitchen sink was included in it. That's not saying that it was a good thing to put it all in one book. After the first 400 pages, I have to admit, I did some skimming...more
Becky Speraw
Good book. Some places the story drags and I think an editor could have cut some, but it is still a great story with lively and entertaining characters.
As of now, the greatest book I've ever read.
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