Legends of the Fall
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Legends of the Fall

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,820 ratings  ·  177 reviews
The publication of this magnificent trilogy of short novels — Legends Of The Fall, Revenge, and The Man Who Gave Up His Name — confirmed Jim Harrison's reputation as one of the finest American writers of his generation. These absorbing novellas explore the theme of revenge and the actions to which people resort when their lives or goals are threatened, adding up to an extr...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 15th 1980 by Delta (first published 1979)
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I Only Watched the Movie!
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The MOVIE was BETTER than the BOOK
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Eric
Utterly unlike the movie – but no better. The movie might be better. (The last time I saw it I was high and I was very entertained imagining digressive counter-films about Col. Ludlow’s embittered back story and virginal Samuel’s “poetic” friendships with other Cambridge aesthetes and the homosexual or simply compensatory motivation of his avidity to enlist. And Anthony Hopkins looks badass in a buffalo robe.) For one, the movie has a better structure. Hollywood's usually harmful compression and...more
Tony
These three novellas are certainly cinematic. Which might explain the Legends of the Fall movie, something I've managed to miss to this point. Suffice it to say, there are Mexican warlords, drug smugglers, bootleggers, and the general unhinged. Each of the three stories ends with a climatic scene where the protagonist will murder, be murdered or just shake hands. I don't care. Jim Harrison's my guy.

Revenge: 4/5
Perhaps this can be summarized in one sentence: The morning before Mauro and his daugh...more
Conrad
The book, thankfully, is way better than the movie. Harrison's underrated as a stylist. While he does sort of fit the Michigan writer cliche of an epicurean, hard-drinking Northman, he also writes cogently on Rilke, Cioran, obscure Russian poets like Yesenin, and is equally adept at poetry, formal prose, and, say, restaurant reviews. How many writers can tell you how to make a great stock out of leftover bits of wild game, advise you on a good recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and write...more
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
My copy is a post-movie paperback, complete with Brad Pitt's young mug looming over a Montana skyline, and gives no clue, even on the jacket copy, that this is actually a collection of three unrelated novellas. I like the form: these feel almost epic in scope, just not in length.

I love Harrison's writing, rather solemn, almost elegiac. His imagery is poetic but unsentimental, which makes sense, since he's also published numerous volumes of poetry. All three stories are told in the third person,...more
Jeremy
I've heard positive things about Harrison for years, but much as I wanted to enjoy this trio of novellas I found myself disappointed. While he is capable of turning a beautiful, poetic sentence now and again, Harrison's stories seem obsessed with summarizing instead of actually narrating. He tells you everything everyone is doing and everything they ever have done, ad infinitum. There is no sense of immediacy here, of the present moment unfolding in any significant or meaningful way. He tells yo...more
Chris
I decided to read this after Kate and Conrad had a bit of a disagreement over Harrison a few weeks back. I realized I'd never read anything by him, so I picked up this collection of three novellas (unfortunately graced with Brad Pitt and the rest of the movie cast).

At first I disliked it, but then I realized that was because I had expected something else -- I was expecting something more along the lines of McCarthy, and Harrison lacks all the southern gothic Faulknerian pretensions that I love i...more
Kayla Shifrin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Travis Fortney
More Montana fiction, which is quickly becoming my favorite little sub-genre. I want to read it all.

I love the movie starring Brad Pitt based on the first novella in this book. I've thought about why I love that movie. I think it's the idea that a man can win a woman's heart without talking to her, instead simply going out to the pasture and breaking a wild horse while she's watching, letting the horse brutalize you a bit in the process. Of course it doesn't hurt to look like Brad Pitt. I also...more
TK421
Certain stories stay with you long after you've read the book. LENGENDS OF THE FALL is a perfect example. (And not because my wife has a crush on Brad Pitt, I'm giving all the credit to Jim Harrison.)

I read this book almost five years ago and I can still recall almost every moment of the story. The feelings of the vast wilderness, both geographically and spiritually, that the characters have to roam about makes me suffer both claustrophobia and agoraphobia simultaneously.

A plot synopsis is poi...more
Paul
I think what's really remarkable about Harrison, which, this is only the second collection of three novellas of his that I've read, but each of his pieces are so rich, and but also so varied from one another. The first in this concerns a bloody story of revenge on the Mexico/U.S. border, the second concerns a middleaged executive somewhere near New York, and the third is set in Montana at the time of and after the first world war. And that third novella, Legends of the Fall, is insane. Eighty-fi...more
Darren
It's hard to find stories of the Great War which touch on it more than tangentially. This novella is no exception. This was very Hemingway, in the carefully simple sentences, in race or nationality seemingly as fitting as a name -The Mexican, The Cree... Also in the romance of the unpolished, the uncivilized. The wild. It made me crave strong coffee cooked over an open fire, pine needles and ash in it. Whiskey from Alberta. The millionth dark wave of the ocean. What it didn't do was involve me w...more
Ricky Orr
This book contained 3 novellas: Revenge, The Man Who Gave Up His Name,and Legends of the Fall.

The first story was about an American who fell in love with the wife of a Mexican drug czar, and eventually paid a significant price in return.

The second story was about a successful businessman who grew apart from his wife after 20 or so years of marriage. Not only did he give up his name, he gave away his wealth and former lifestyle, and redefined himself.

The final story, Legends of the Fall, was very...more
Diane
This book contains three novellas, the last one being the title story. Jim Harrison has been one of my favorite authors for years. He lives in and writes about Michigan in his stories and poetry, capturing the untamed nature of parts of that land. The Legends of the Fall was made into a pretty powerful movie a few years ago, but the story itself is even more powerful. However, the other two stories, "Revenge," and "The Man Who Gave up His Name," are also quite intense. In fact, I couldn't "Reven...more
Laura Cowan
Very very good, and I'm intrigued to learn that Harrison lives in Northern Michigan, as this story has much in common with Hemingway's spare summarizing style and rich landscapes. That was why I read it: to learn how to write short novels with spare prose and rich imagery well, since that seems to be where my writing is headed. I learned a lot from how the author packs complex plots and relationships into dense storylines by summarizing a lot of the action and doing without much dialogue, though...more
Ali
Apr 19, 2007 Ali rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
The movie was passionate, enthralling, and unforgetable. The book, a 100 page short story tucked between the covers with other equally poorly written short stories, is boring, confusing, and disappointing. How anyone ever wrote a screenplay as good as the movie from this short story is beyond me. That person deserves a medal of some sort.
Dianne Ferguson
Not just a movie! This is a trilogy of short novels--a form that Jim Harrison often uses. I refer to him as our greatest living American novelist. Legends of the Fall is the title novella but this book also contains "Revenge" (also made into one of my favorite movies with Kevin Costner) and "The Man Who Gave Up His Name."
Sarah R
I could only give this two stars because it was so short that I felt like I was reading a synopsis of the movie. They took an OK book and turned it into an amazing movie.
Chrissie
great one. even for jim harrison who write a lot of great ones. and i can't complain about brad pitt on the cover.
Theresa
This was a difficult book to rate. The three star rating really only applies to the namesake short story. It was difficult for me to keep reading the first two stories... I suppose I could have just skipped to Legends of the Fall but I felt like that would have been cheating for some reason. So I slogged through Revenge and The Man Who Gave Up His Name. Is it reverse-sexist to say that I could tell that the author was a male?.. that I think men would enjoy and "get" those first two stories more...more
Nick Miller
It's good to be Harrison. And Harrison is very Harrison here.
Dale
As noted elsewhere, this is actually 3 novellas, a fact noted nowhere on the cover of the paperbook edition.

Brief plot summary (applies mostly to all 3 stories): 1. Some terrible thing happens. 2. You get to know the people involved in that terrible thing. 3. You start to like some of those people. 4. Some even worse thing happens. 5. The people die, mostly, or are physically or emotionally scarred for life.

Terrific writing, for the most part, except when Harrison tries to go all philosophical a...more
Go
This book has 3 short stories yet this review refers only to the “Legends” story. I wanted to read this because I LOVE the movie “Legends of the Fall.” It’s one of the few movies that makes me emotional. This was a rare time when the movie overshadows the book. There is so much more passion in the movie. The book seemed disconnected without a logical flow to it. I was bored and wanted it to end. It was too political for my taste and it was long-winded with run-on sentences usually involving exte...more
Julie Paugh
I don't really have a hard and fast opinion on this one. It was just kinda ENHHHH. The book is, in fact, a collection of three short stories all of which are fairly good. For me, there was a definate period of adaptation needed to adjust to the mechanics of Harrison's prose. He seems to dislike commas a great deal and many of his sentences are just clumsy word trains and I had to re-read many sentences just to grasp his meaning. In general, I found the stories to be heavy on meaning and light on...more
Mac
I originally bought this book because Brad Pitt looks so darn handsome on the cover, but it turns out the novellas within are actually pretty good. That and "Revenge," the first book in the collection, has been recommended to me by many, many people, and I've finally got around to reading it, and will now tell everyone how great it is as though I'm the first person to discover it.

Harrison manages to pack a novel's worth of book into about 100 pages for each story, which is probably one of the l...more
Heather
This is another one of those books that I made the mistake of seeing the movie first. Again, didn't know the book existed. However, I think if I had read the book first, I never would have bothered with the movie. The book is actually a novella. I picked it up as part of a collection of 3 of Jim Harrison's works. After reading this and another Jim Harrison piece, I conclude that I am simply not a fan of Harrison's writing style. I thought that Legends could have appealed to me, but it was writte...more
Jackie
This book is actually three novellas, and not about the same characters, though the themes are similar. Of the three, the first has a traditional western arc, the second is almost "American Pastoral" in it's consideration of the scope of a man's life, and the third is again western, but more of a pioneer-y one--the "Legends of the Fall" that the book takes it's name from and that perhaps is the most epic of the three. All three feel like they are sketches for novels that were never fleshed out....more
Kelly Gravedoni
Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison is an excellent read. It is written in third person in a precise yet beautifully emotional manner. While Harrison is concise with his descriptions, his knowledge of the wilderness is superb. He is clearly an outdoorsman and this is evident in his descriptions of nature. His writing also contains a musical rhythm to it, reminiscent of his true strength as a poet. Not much dialogue is written in Legends but this story does not need it. The world he creates throu...more
Bob
Read this with that twinge of embarrassment that only Brad Pitt's face on the cover of the movie tie-in edition can bring, but two people whose opinions I give credit to had recommended it. Harrison's prose is a fine post-Hemingway plain style, with a dash of Cormac McCarthy (the latter evidenced in a certain degree of detail on the physical aftermath of a severe beating that opens the first of these three novellas).

The world-view seems like that of the early 20th century American frontier but f...more
Iida
Revenge
A thrilling short story about a man looking for vengeance and his lost love. The story is nice and the way Jim Harrison tells it gives it a unique charm. Even though it has a hint of predictability it's still a very nice story.
Rating: 4/5

The Man Who Gave Up His Name
Not as good as the previous story, but still very nice. The story is about a mans life, from a tender teenager to an elderly man in the prime of his life. It seems to mostly be about a man experiencing a midlife-crisis, which...more
Teresa Jusino
Last night, Adam read me the third and final chapter of Legends of the Fall. A beautiful, beautiful story...and again, I will attest to how wonderful it is to have a story read to you by someone who loves it. There's really something magical about that. However, Harrison's prose really calls to be read aloud - he's one of those writers who really can paint pictures with words. Normally, I hate description - it bores me, and I usually skip it over - but Harrison does it not using many words, just...more
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Books2Movies Club: 2014/07 - Legends of the Fall 1 5 Jul 20, 2014 03:06AM  
Jim Harrison's fascinating protagonists 1 5 Oct 20, 2013 07:23AM  
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants...more
More about Jim Harrison...
The English Major Dalva Returning to Earth The Woman Lit By Fireflies True North

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“If you added it up, without her there was nothing--but with her even the simplest of gestures of walking a bird dog in the desert, or selecting the ingredients for a meal for two rather than one took on an ineffable charm.

(from the novella, Revenge)”
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“His own life suddenly seemed repellently formal. Whom did he know or what did he know and whom did he love? Sitting on the stump under the burden of his father's death and even the mortality inherent in the dying, wildly colored canopy of leaves, he somehow understood that life was only what one did every day.... Nothing was like anything else, including himself, and everything was changing all of the time. He knew he couldn't perceive the change because he was changing too, along with everything else.

(from the novella, The Man Who Gave Up His Name)
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