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Old Jules

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  315 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
First published in 1935, Old Jules is unquestionably Mari Sandoz’s masterpiece. This portrait of her pioneer father grew out of “the silent hours of listening behind the stove or the wood box, when it was assumed, of course, that I was asleep in bed. So it was that I heard the accounts of the hunts,” Sandoz recalls. "Of the fights with the cattlemen and the sheepmen, of th ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 425 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Bison Books (first published 1935)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 618)
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Little House on the Prairie, this ain't. It's an excellent way to shatter any illusions that pioneer life was one big locavore barnraising festooned with handworked finery and old-fashioned virtue.

Mari Sandoz methodically researched (and was able to provide lots of primary sources, newspaper clippings and court records to buttress) the life of her father, the titular Old Jules.

They guy was a piece of work. The book follows the arc of his life as a medical student in Switzerland when he emigrat
Marie Carmean
Oct 13, 2015 Marie Carmean rated it it was amazing
This classic, a testament to the men and women who settled the west, is amazing in so many ways. It had a slow start, and I thought it was a little dry at first. But then I became entwined in the lives of the "characters" and was carried along on the waves of this wonderful volume. The "characters" are real...Mari Sandoz's own family, and particularly her father Jules. He was a truly complex person: a visionary, who wanted the west to be a place where people could come and live their lives in fr ...more
Jon Frankel
Nov 10, 2015 Jon Frankel rated it it was amazing
Old Jules is a biography of an American pioneer, written by his daughter Mari and published in 1937. Mari Sandoz is an extraordinary figure in American letters and this, her first book, is a great book. I want to say it is one of the greatest books written about the American west, but I haven’t read that many so I won’t make the claim. I will say it is one of the greatest books I’ve read about a place.
“At the potash towns the old plants loomed gaunt, fire-stripped, the boilers and pipings red-ru
Jean Carlton
May 27, 2014 Jean Carlton rated it did not like it
Shelves: kindle-version
The story of Jules, told by his oldest daughter, is described in q NYT review as a realistic and rare biography leaving the reader feeling he has 'read the history of all pioneering." I sincerely hope not. Though Jules made many positive contributions to the early settlement of Nebraska he was more than a disagreeable person; physical violence with his wife and six little children was his right, he thought. I found him disgusting. He was esteemed for his skills but hated by those who knew him. I ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book begins in 1884 when Jules Sandoz is 22. He is a recently arrived immigrant from Switzerland, a bright, educated young man who wants to move to the American frontier and build up the country. He hopes his Swiss sweetheart Rosalie will join him.

**Some minor spoilers below**

In this masterful account of her father's life, Mari Sandoz records the next fifty years of life in the panhandle of Nebraska, in the far northwest of the state in the sandhills, the high country, the area in close prox
Jul 29, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this four stars because of the strong sense of place, time, and personalities, but I'd give it a three for the writing. Sandoz mentions so many people, but doesn't always introduce them at the time they're first mentioned. Then, the person may vanish from the story for several chapters and reappear briefly. For a first time reader, I suggest not trying to keep straight all of these people. I also wish that Mari Sandoz hadn't been discouraged from including much about her own story. I woul ...more
Gustav Von
Dec 08, 2015 Gustav Von rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched memoir by the daughter of the title character. Mari Sandoz captured well what she grew up with: the rough living on the edge life on the high plains. It's amazing how even handed her treatment of her father is despite the utter lack of encouragement or nurturing from him.
Though his enthusiasm for work had fits and starts, he eagerly pursued activities that helped the community he lived in grow and overcome disasters at the whim of nature and at the hand of malevolent humans. Si
Mar 19, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
This was a book about Jules Ami Sandoz, a Swiss immigrant who helped to settle the Sand Hills of Nebraska in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It was written by his daughter. Jules had some strange ideas and was quite abusive to those he loved. When people disagreed with him, he cut them out of his life. He considered all cattlemen to be crooks and worked very hard to get rid of them. He encouraged people to come to the Sand Hills hoping they would plants vegetable crops and orchards. Many left ...more
Jun 09, 2016 Laurie rated it it was ok
I finally finished this. Whew. It was not an easy read, either artistically or historically. It read like it had been written by a woman for whom English is a second language, except that I don't think it is her second language. I only read it because it was recommended by the instructor of the "West of Here" adult education class, who warned us that it was a "tough read". I wish I'd liked it better, but the characters were a jumble, as was much of the history. It did give an authentic flavor of ...more
John Inglis
Mar 02, 2016 John Inglis rated it it was amazing
Since I grew up in Nebraska, and have been aware of Mari Sandoz since childhood, I was very pleased to have finally read one of her works. "Old Jules" was particularly important because it is a first-hand tale of growing up in a most difficult pioneer land--the Nebraska Sandhills. Jules Sandoz, Mari's father--an immigrant from Switzerland--was a complex person--tough, hard, violent, obsessed and Ms Sandoz navigated a very personal story in a quite objective third-person narrative, but her folksy ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Kathy rated it did not like it
DNF. I found this man detestable. When he beat his wives that was anger inspiring. When he beat his 3 mo old baby I found nothing worth reading about anymore. This book was recommended to me by someone whose taste in writing often coincides with mine. I found it confusing with too many names, places, and dates of too many secondary characters. Disappointed.
Judith Kerr
Nov 19, 2014 Judith Kerr rated it liked it
Jules was a very unlikeable cuss, even though he contributed a lot to settling Nebraska and developing fruits, etc, for that climate. He was very mean to wife and children. The book was very depressing, but I did finish it. (for the second time!) I had read this years ago and only began again because my friend`s family was included in the book. ...more
Luther Smith
Jul 26, 2015 Luther Smith rated it liked it
This book is the author way of coming to terms with the main character in the book. A man who hated writers. It is easy to judge the main character using our contemporary ideas and political correctness. The book rambled too much for me. It needed more editing.
Feb 20, 2014 David rated it really liked it
An engaging view into what it was really like to frontier. Despite bearing the brunt of much of his brutishness,Sandoz shows how the frontier man's arrogance, impatience and strict principles helped him survive. Makes me really want to visit the sandhills now!
J. Boo
Aug 12, 2015 J. Boo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A biography of author Mari Sandoz' father, a Swiss immigrant who helped settle Nebraska in the late 1800s.

Definitely a warts-and-all picture, and with a lot of warts. Sandoz, who hated her father for years, spent a long time writing, re-writing, and coming to terms with him. The result gives, I think, a very good picture not just of the early settlement of the West, but of a class of people who made for successful pioneers -- stubborn, too proud to admit failure, and unable to "play well with ot
Aug 22, 2016 Missyjohnson1 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it is not a fair rating because I couldn't even finish this book. I tried several times but only really got through about 100 pages. I did not care for old Jules nor did I like the writing. It did not feel real and I did not think that there was a flow to the story. Maybe that was just my brain jumping around due to boredom. This is supposed to be Mari Sandoz masterpiece........did she write anything else?
Marsha Green
Great historical fiction.
Aug 22, 2010 Jacqueline rated it really liked it
This is the story of Mari Sandoz' father. Jules Sandoz was an immigrant who came to western Nebraska then wrote back to the Old World to try to drum up settlers for the area. He was not a very nice person but this books shows what it took to homestead in those days. I was particularly interested because my dad is from this area and my grandmother went to school (one room school house) with the Sandoz girls. A very worthwhile read about pioneer days. This book was originally published in 1935.
Feb 03, 2015 Monique rated it it was ok
The information was good but the book was difficult to read.
Jun 05, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
I agree that the abrupt change of subject could be difficult at times. However, I have heard that I do this very thing myself in conversation, so perhaps it is a learning lesson for me. I do love reading the book and will naturally finish it. I would love to read more about the person Jules was before he came to America. I could probably use a dictionary for pioneer terminology.
Sep 18, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to continue to harbor romantic notions about life on the frontier, don't read Old Jules. It is a straightforward account of a joyless life, particularly for women. Having been to that area of the Sandhills, I could easily picture the isolation and desolation described. It is amazing to me that Sandoz was able to tell the story with so little overt emotion.
Jul 22, 2009 Sonja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I picked this book up as a teenager in a small service station somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. I started reading it while sitting in the car on the way to the Black Hills. Reading this book while watching the landscape in which it was written pass by, was amazing. I have since re-read this book almost every year.
Don Bouchard
Jul 11, 2012 Don Bouchard rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in stories about the early Great Plains settlers will find this book a must read. Old Jules' story is told by his daughter. No punches are withheld, and the man who emerges is simultaneously love-able and hate-able. Tough people settled and survived. The rest either died or left the plains of Nebraska....
Dec 04, 2015 Tanja rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This is a well-written biography of Jules Sandoz in which Mari Sandoz not only portraits her own father but also provides much insight in the hard lives of the early settlers of the Nebraska Sandhills in the late 1800s. I liked this much better than any romanticized stories about life in the early settlements.
I was inspired to read this by a recent New York Times article on that area in Nebraska,
The New York Times: Life Along the 100th Meridian.

The people who settled this country were hard as nails.
Oct 30, 2009 Stuart rated it liked it
Hardscrabble homesteader action in old Nebrasky. You think you're tough? Try wintering in a sod-hut hole in the ground. Or falling 65 feet to the bottom of that well you're digging. Or running afoul of the local cattle operation.
Jan 11, 2015 Chels rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who care about history
Recommended to Chels by: Eric Walz
This book is a great way to learn about homesteader life during the turn of the century. The author does a great job of showing the characters personalities--and it's all true too, so that makes it all the better.
Dec 30, 2008 Stew rated it really liked it
The classic nonfiction tale of the toughest, meanest homesteader to ever set foot in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Writing style is a bit dated, but you will never forget Old Jules once you've read this book.
Oct 01, 2008 Vicki rated it liked it
I read this for a history of the American West class. The author explains her life and the life of her father "Old Jules" growing up in the homesteading era in Nebraska. Very informative and interesting.
Oct 01, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it
A fantastic book, her best, about her mean, tough, hard-to-like homesteading father. Nevertheless, he love for him shows. A great read, worth rereading.
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Mari Susette Sandoz (May 11, 1896 – March 10, 1966) was a novelist, biographer, lecturer, and teacher. She was one of Nebraska's foremost writers, and wrote extensively about pioneer life and the Plains Indians.
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