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The Willow Field

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  108 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Annie Dillard has called him "one of our finest writers." Jane Smiley has declared his voice "prophetic." Now, at long last--after two collections of stories, another two of essays, and the heralded memoir "A Hole in the Sky"--William Kittredge gives us his first novel: an epic that stretches over the twentieth century, from the settlers, cowboys, and gamblers who opened u ...more
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2006)
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Diamond Cowboy
Oct 27, 2015 Diamond Cowboy rated it really liked it
This, the author's first epic novel is about a life of a man spanning a century. He starts out his life in Nevada in the very early nineteen hundreds and works as a buckaroo herding horses to Canada. There he meets a girl who brings him to Montana where he completes the rest of his life. He becomes a polatition but fails. His love remains with the land and horse flesh for all of his life.
I recommend this book to all.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Aug 19, 2009 Reid rated it it was ok
This book is very promising at the start, causing me to wax rhapsodic in comparing Kittredge's writing to that of the best of Doig, almost in a class with Cormac McCarthy or Wendell Berry among writers of the American West. Alas, this novel could only hold up to such comparisons for the first third, and then it peters out into a litany of mediocrity.

Our hero, Rossie, is a city boy enamored of horses, and Kittredge has a skill with language in his description of this fascination and how it plays
Philip Marsh
Apr 25, 2016 Philip Marsh rated it really liked it
To understand William Kittredge’s The Willow Field one first has to read his masterpiece memoir Hole in the Sky and Wallace Stegner’s Big Rock Candy Mountain (Mr. Kittredge was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford). Even reading the first chapter of Hole in the Sky conveys a deeply thoughtful philosophy about the meaning of one’s life. In that chapter Kittredge says that perhaps the purpose of our lives is connected with the pleasure of simply repeating the names of those things which become sa ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Marci rated it liked it
a slow start uncertain as to what value i would get out of finishiing this story about a young boy's decision is skip school to go on the range riding and herding horses. it turned into a document of change from the early 1900s to the 1990s covering all the political events that really effected the american people. it centered around the people in the west who were and are more attached to the landed and very independent. The poliitcs of a man who was self educated on the land and learned to be ...more
Dec 24, 2007 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started out good, but after the first third I thought the dialog got too wordy without really saying anything I found interesting, and I didn't enjoy the last part of the book. I also thought the main characters used the f-word way too much and in an unrealistic manner for the dates the story was set in...that was distracting to me.
Aug 02, 2009 Magda rated it it was ok
Recommended to Magda by: Elizabeth
You watch out. There's only so many. You can miss all the boats.

Gods live in mountains.

Theorists like Ezra Pound say that verbs and not nouns are real. Sounds like the theory of a man too long cooped up in England, but nevertheless…

That remark generated another round of martinis.
Dec 10, 2007 Keren added it
i couldn't get through this. i quit after about 100 pages. i skimmed the rest. it wasn't worth finishing. i never felt connected to the characters. there was nothing sympathetic in any of them that didn't feel forced.
Nov 26, 2015 Bamboozlepig rated it it was ok
DNF. Expected a good saga about a man and his life and family, instead got a book I abandoned not even halfway through it. The pacing was really of the plot plodded along while crucial parts were sped up and the result was something that felt like it should've been sent back to the drawing board before being published. The characters were not very well drawn and I couldn't establish a connection with any of them. Also, despite the majority of the book taking place in the Depressio ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of the Nature of Words books. It was an effort to read. Although interesting, at times I felt like the author was talking to me instead of through the characters.
Mar 31, 2009 Blythe rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009
I wish I could give this zero stars. Worst book I've read in a long time. Boring, pointless, and pretentious. Every character spoke with exactly the same voice. Bah.
Nov 09, 2010 Andrea rated it it was ok
Shelves: quit-reading
Apr 30, 2012 Ron rated it liked it
Kittredge is a fine short story writer; one of the best. Read to page 74 of this novel and you will be entertained by a fine story, well told, about a young man signing on with a horse drive from northern California to Calgary. Set in the worst years of the Depression, it calls to mind an era when America and the American West were a very different place from what they are today.

You can put the book down at that point because what follows is a long meandering search for any further illumination
Andy Miller
Nov 24, 2012 Andy Miller rated it liked it
This is a western novel about a young man who leaves home in the 1930s to work with horses culminating in helping take horses from Nevada to Calgary and returning through Montana where he eventually marries and settles down.

The first part is just great!! The description of the horse drive leaves the reader thinking that you are back in the 30s on that drive. During the drive and his time in Canada and Montana you meet characters who are as complex as they are interesting. I think a lot of this a
Oct 15, 2011 Leadmare rated it it was ok
I stuck with, before abandoning until the ending, the pretentious, overwrought dialog only because I was sick in bed with nothing else to read. Kittredge honed this novel to be a work of craftsmanship, and he gets A for effort. But it is top-heavy and a chore to follow after the cattle drive. It is also not an accurate depiction of people, especially women, in 1933; nor of sexuality (overplayed renditions of "cock" and not one mention of clitoris); nor of horses and horsemanship, which is my rai ...more
Oct 21, 2009 Megan rated it really liked it
Tears were shed over this book. But I need to stop doing that. Not shedding tears for books (no, that is what I live for), but I need to stop judging books in such simple terms. Being a "page-turner" or a "tear-jerker" is a nice quality in a book, but luckily for me these qualities are not rare, and they are certainly not illuminating.

So. I loved The Willow Field by Michael Kittredge and it made me cry, but that is not what I want to tell you about it. Nor does it particularly matter that I too
Oct 23, 2012 Peggy rated it liked it
Picture this: middle seat on a non-stop from Boston to Seattle. Realization that all reading materials are in checked luggage. I find husband elsewhere on the plane and look piteous (and this was before learning that I was one of fifteen passengers without a working TV screen). He gives me The Willow Field because he had found it in a local bookstore and he loves those Western writers like Ivan Doig and Wallace Stegner. I read the book for most of the flight and then once home I finish the book! ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an exploration of how love intersects with loneliness, with some western/cowboy elements thrown in for effect. The landscape mirrors and sometimes echos the human emotions. The author succeeds in making what doesn't happen as significant as what does. Both genders of characters are strongly written, sometimes hard to find in western writing.

Five paragraphs from the end the main character, who has returned to his beginning place, Rossie is speaking:
"Not long after I left, up in the Canadi
Dec 06, 2014 Jane rated it liked it
Good for an airplane read. What's bothering me is that Kittredge has Eliza and Rossie visit the Musee d'Orsay in Paris in 1968 but that museum did not open until 1986. Seems like a big fact checking oversight...
Apr 01, 2014 Wendy rated it did not like it
Reminded me of Brokback Mountain's raw style. Not that entertaining or enlightening.
Sep 05, 2009 Gregory rated it liked it
Western's aren't usually my genre but this long, somewhat slow amble through the waning of the West in Montana and the growth of our main character Rossie as he finds his place in the world is ultimately satisfying. I generally liked the book but the politico turn almost threw me off like an ill fated buckaroo. If you hang on though, this is a power filled novel that you will ultimately enjoy.
Feb 15, 2008 Kimi rated it liked it
First novels fascinate me. This one gave me a feel for an area of the country I've never seen -- what used to be the west, land of horses and cattle, before it all got burbed. A good story of people thrown together who somehow make lifelong connections. It drug a little in the last third though (or is that me -- I often don't like the last third of novels).
Mar 04, 2008 Camas rated it really liked it
Beautiful and haunting and written in Kittredge's unique cadences it's an introspective tale of the modern West that exalts in the sweep of open space even as it condemns the pillaging of the land. Absolutely gorgeous narrative.
Jul 24, 2009 Tony rated it it was amazing
I've found Kittredge worth reading in other contexts. I'm nearly through this satisfying novel of men, horses, Montana, and a view of the world I too felt fading out in my own childhood. Gracious stuff.
Mar 25, 2008 Danna rated it really liked it
This is Kitterege's first novel - he wrote it at 71. Only a few chapters in and loving it. I'm also feeling a little cheated now that he's 75 that he didn't start writing novels earlier in life.
Jul 10, 2010 Brian rated it it was ok
The beginning was interesting, but on the whole, it was a disappointing plot. It is one of the few books I've read where the characters become less interesting over time.
May 31, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
I liked it so much I deliberately stalled and set it aside overnight, with just a few pages to go, because I didn't want it to be over. Got pretty much attached to the people.
Lynda Haghan
Jul 21, 2015 Lynda Haghan rated it liked it
This was slow going for me but I was determined to finish it for some reasons. Some good nuggets in the last 10 pages...something to think about.
Apr 20, 2008 Carina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Eh. This American West epic didn't quite grab me as much as did Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses trilogy. I liked his memoir though.
Jan 25, 2008 Lyra rated it liked it
First novel by Kittredge. In general I'm a fan of western novels, and liked this one quite alot.
Harry Annan
sprawling story spanning several generations....interesting history woven throughout.
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William Kittredge was born in 1932 in Portland, Oregon.
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