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The Willow Field

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  91 ratings  ·  31 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 ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Knopf (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 161)
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Reid
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
...more
Marci
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
Katie
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.
Magda
Aug 02, 2009 Magda rated it 2 of 5 stars
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.
Keren
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.
Nancy
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.
Blythe
Mar 31, 2009 Blythe rated it 1 of 5 stars
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.
Andrea
NICE STORY IN THE BEGINNING - BUT NOTHING WAS HAPPENING TO KEEP ME READING.
Ron
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
...more
Andy Miller
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
...more
Leadmare
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
Megan
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
...more
Peggy
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
Jill
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
...more
Jane
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...
Wendy Paige
Reminded me of Brokback Mountain's raw style. Not that entertaining or enlightening.
Gregory
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.
Kimi
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).
Camas
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.
Tony
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.
Danna
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.
Brian
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.
Mary
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.
Carina
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.
Lyra
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.
Jason M.
This deserved three and a half, but this freaking site has no halfs.
John
I would recommend this book. I enjoyed it very much.
Meegan
Good book. Fascinating account of the end of the old West.
Patti Danforth woodcock
good read lots of Montana in it.
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William Kittredge was born in 1932 in Portland, Oregon.
More about William Kittredge...
Hole in the Sky: A Memoir Owning It All: Essays The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology We Are Not in This Together: Stories Who Owns the West?

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