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The Big Sky

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,885 ratings  ·  175 reviews
A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction.

Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersme...more
Paperback, 386 pages
Published January 9th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1947)
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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Best Westerns
36th out of 498 books — 636 voters
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Literary Westerns
25th out of 98 books — 149 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Scott Axsom
I particularly love fiction when the allegory and the story march hand-in-hand to a natural conclusion. I don’t need to be spoon-fed, I just relish when the character and the polemic arrive at similar points, after similar journeys. Sounds simple… but, not so much.

“The Big Sky” is a beautifully written novel that takes some getting used to. It’s about the mountain men of the West during the years 1835-43 and A.B. Guthrie’s style is a perfect fit for the era and the people, whom he so lyrically d...more
This book is a masterpiece, although it was Guthrie's second book, The Way West, that won the Pulitzer Prize. It was written in 1947 but doesn't get read much any more. A shame.

Guthrie was appalled by the Western cowboy books that were being written. He wanted to write a novel that followed some of the first men to live in the harsh, lonely environment of the West. His work was carefully drawn from historical sources, journals, diaries, and numerous trips to the area. The characters in The Big S...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This is a "classic" historical fiction of the western expansion. Boone flees his vengeful "Pa" and heads west. Things do not go smoothly.

Along the way he meets Jim and the two of them set out. Along the way we will share with them a realistic look at everything from Keel-boats to foot travel. We'll hunt and we'll fight. We'll meet a range of characters. We'll learn to live as and look at the land as the "Indians" do.

Yes the native Americans are called Indians here. I want to include in this revi...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 06, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those Who Can Tolerate Dark Themes, Dark Characters and Plenty of Violence
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I tried--truly I did. Guthrie is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this has been called his masterpiece. It's not badly written by any means, quite the contrary, but this is one of those books I find way too dark in terms of the characters--and I say that as someone that loved The Color Purple and The Kite Runner. But then, both those novels have very appealing protagonists you can root for, here the major character never seemed anything but despicable, not simply just a scoundrel like in Little Big M...more
Before Lonesome Dove and All the Pretty Horses, A. B. Guthrie's The Big Sky was the go-to novel of the American West. Those who want a gritty and realistic portrayal of the characters and environment that made up the frontier at that time need look no further. Sink your teeth into The Big Sky and at the end when you hunger for more, pick up book two, The Way West, which won Guthrie the Pulitzer Prize.
This is certainly not a book for a modern audience. It was written in the mid-1940s and utilizes the N-word on nearly every page! It surprised me the author found the word so necessary when only a few of the characters were black. It is a very unique telling of mountain men and their interaction with Indian Tribes during the 1830s and 1840s. The language is difficult to follow at times. Both the dialogue and the narrations follow a rustic homespun jargon. The plot and flow of the story often get...more
THE BIG SKY. (1947). A. B. Guthrie, Jr. ****.
Albert Bertram Guthrie tells the story of Boone Caudill, who is seventeen-years old when we first meet him. Boone is an unsettled young man who is just coming into his manhood. He is in trouble; he beat up on a neighbor boy in a fight and broke his jaw. Now the law is after him. On top of it all, he fiinally managed to stand up to his abusive father and whacked him so hard with a stick of firewood that he thought he might have killed him. Boone has n...more
A debut novel written in the vernacular gives a realistic view of the west before it was changed by pioneers and civilization. The principle character is a white savage who contributes to the destruction of what he loves. The author won a Pulitzer for his second novel, The Way West, although many believe The Big Sky is better. He also was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay Shane. I wonder if this book could be published in today's PC world.
As good a look into the minds of the mountain men and indians of the 1830's and 1840's West (particularly northwest) as I have read. I read this book because it is the first book in a series of which the next book "The Way West" was a Pulitzer Prize winner. This is a novel but there is a lot of historical background in the text that gives the reader a clearer understanding of how people of that time thought.
This story appeals to my sense of adventure, my love of open country and my affection for a time and people now gone.

The opening is a bit harsh for some readers and the end left me troubled for a time. I am often visited by the beautiful imagery of this book and its many lessons.
I want to go to big sky country and I want to do it on horseback and I want to trap beaver and I want to hunt buffalo for food and shelter and I want to trade with Native Americans and I want it to be the 1800's...but that aint gonna happen so I just went ahead and read this book.
This is perhaps the best western that I've ever read. From the wonderfully flawed protagonist to the sprawling landscapes and an incredible story, "The Big Sky" is without a doubt one of the great forgotten novels.
Amazing, incredible, beautiful book. Guthrie's images are stunning, his characters authentic and absorbing.... the book just incredibly powerful. One of the greatest books I have ever read!
A.B. Guthrie. This trilogy was some of the best thoughts/writing about the west. Character driven, but in an old school way. Not as dense and Angle of Repose by Stegner, but just as good.
Bonnie Y
I read this ages and ages ago when I was in college in the 60's.
I have always wanted to visit Montana's Big Sky Country, but I haven't gotten there yet.
Jan 20, 2009 Bonnie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history or wilderness buffs
I'm rereading this book just for the joy of it. Makes me want to visit the "big sky" country of Montana. Great history of the western discoveries.
Steve Shilstone
This is the mountain man novel of mountain man novels.
I was simply perusing the library shelves one day while in between reads when I pulled out a copy of The Big Sky, by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. Never heard of him, but I was intrigued that the forward was written by Wallace Stegner. I stood in the aisle and read some very high praise for Mr. Guthrie from a writer I admire. I thought, if Stegner likes him, why not see for myself?

The story follows the early years of a seventeen year old boy who leaves his family in Kentucky for the untamed west and the mou...more
Sherry H
I love a book that MOVES, and The Big Sky does just that. Set in 1830 through 1843, its hero set out from Kentucky as a 17-year old, heading West - away from a cruel and heavy-handed father, toward Injun country, toward self-sufficiency, toward a land and a vision dreamed of in his childish mind based on the glory stories of a beloved uncle.

But Boone Caudill is not a warm and fuzzy hero, and his journey and destination are harsher than his boyhood imaginings. He gains his manhood watching his co...more
This was ok and thus given a 2 star rating. The use of the N-word and GD was used so heavy throughout the book that it took away from the story. I understand that this was written awhile back, but the use of these two/three words tainted the entire story. I struggled with the main character and how dark his was. Looking back after listening to all 11 discs in this audio book I really do not like the main character and I think I stuck with the entire story hoping that he would change. The strengt...more
I would give this novel a five star rating, but I was held back by the constant and vivid brutality and lack of emotion beyond anger and fear. Also, the N word is in frequent usage. Boone is an unsympathetic and uncaring protagonist, but his transformation from an ignorant farm boy into a mountain man is fascinating. Over a period of 13 years, he becomes more Indian than white. He is supported over this span of years by his sidekick Jim and his sensei Dick. Guthrie's power of description is beyo...more
The Big Sky, so the edition of the book I owned told me, was part of a series of book written in the early twentieth century in the U.S. which made not a nickel, and was totally ignored, but some editor found it and said, damn, this is good stuff, better reissue this. Everyone in my family liked it. A sordid tale of life at a time when Kentucky was the Wild West, and drunk, smelly, fur-covered people with large knives complained the country was ruined now that a wagon train crossed the Mississip...more
Raro de Concurso
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ricky Orr
Boone Caudill, 17 yrs old and living with his family and an abusive father in Kentucky in 1830 has a particularly bad altercation with his father. Boone decides to head west, with plans of becoming a mountain man. He meets Jim Deakins as he is walking to St Louis, and they both are hired on as deck hands to help take a keel boat to the headwaters of the Missouri River. Dick Summers, the game hunter for the crew, takes Boone and Jim under his wing, and teaches them how to survive in the wildernes...more
An outstanding adventure story of mountain men. One of my favorite books of all time.
Lori Iseppi
Very good book. I will read more of Guthrie's. Looking forward to "The Way West
Regan Sharp
I debated going with 3 or 4 stars for this book. For the most part, I really enjoyed it. The writing was more poetic than I had anticipated and also more direct and violent, both qualities which made it worth reading. The character of Boone Caudill was intriguing. He was bold and adventurous, but not necessarily heroic. Some of his deeds were admirable and others were downright loathsome. In my estimation, Guthrie provided a realistic portrayal of a man who would run from domesticated society in...more
Feb 05, 2010 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nathan by: Stephanie Lynn Sears
The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie Jr. is an amazing tale whose understated and open prose is perfectly suited for the books western setting. Not cluttered with unnessecary flourish or self serving artistry it is stripped down and essential. Like the landscape and the characters that inhabit it this book is not so much about adventure, but about the search for freedom and open places.

Boone Caudill grows from a teenager oppressed under the rule of his heavy handed father to become an independent mounta...more
A book that claims a preface written by Wallace Stegner already has high praise indeed. This 1947 novel by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., is beautifully written, and is a vital monument to the 19th-century development of the American “mountain man,” who leaves behind traditional white man’s civilization, blends his lifestyle somewhat with native Americans (a sexual mixture, if not a total cultural rapport), and becomes spiritually connected to the land. The story begins in 1830 with 17-year-old Boone Caudi...more
Another book left over from the required reading list of high school students. Went looking for it thinking it was another and decided to read it anyway. It started out slow for me, definitely a boy/man's read. However, once into the plot it kept me engaged. The description of the wide open spaces of the then wild west were captivating, the reader can see it all without getting bogged down in too many details. The story of the main character, Boone, is a complex and sad one. A boy, then man, of...more
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Alfred Bertram Guthrie, Jr. (January 13, 1901 – April 26, 1991) was an American novelist, screenwriter, historian, and literary historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction during 1950 for his novel The Way West. The author called himself "Bud" because he felt that Alfred Bertram was "a sissy name."

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