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The Orchard Keeper

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,978 Ratings  ·  387 Reviews
An American classic, The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by one of America's finest, most celebrated novelists.Set is a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the years between the two world wars, it tells of John Wesley Rattner, a young boy, and Marion Sylder, an outlaw and bootlegger who, unbeknownst to either of them, has killed the boy's father.Together with R ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published August 11th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1965)
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Lawyer
Jan 01, 2016 Lawyer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Members of On the Southern Literary Trail
The Orchard Keeper: Cormac McCarthy's first novel of a Southern Quartet

The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy was selected by Tom "Big Daddy" Mathews as the Moderator's Choice for Members of On the Southern Literary Trail for January, 2016.

Photobucket
First Edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1965

 photo OrchardKeeper DJ 1965_zpsxfwsfleg.jpg
Cormac McCarthy, Dust Jacket Photo, "The Orchard Keeper"

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have Papa may have
But God bless the child that'
...more
Mike Puma
Jan 04, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Face it GoodReaders—Cormac McCarthy isn’t for everyone. I doubt it was ever his intention. He doesn’t write for the casual reader, or even the avid reader. I think he writes primarily for himself, and gets rather a kick out of those of us who follow his every word and enjoy it for what it is. Like any artist, he creates a work, makes it available to a public, and moves on. He’s seemingly uninterested in what people think of his work, or in discussing his work, or its popularity. Reception to his

...more
Diane Barnes
Jan 16, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a McCarthy fan, having read 1 of his books (All the Pretty Horses), and putting aside another (Suttree) after just a few chapters. His vision is bleak and depressing, and his themes seem to run to "live, suffer and die".

But,oh my God, this was a good book!

The lyrical language and description of nature pulled me in. The dialogue of the isolated, uneducated, Tennessee mountain people kept me there. The rough characters who found a way to survive by any means kept me rooting for them, eve
...more
Casey
Aug 27, 2007 Casey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone pining for appalachia
Blame it on Faulkner. You can't write a novel nowadays about the South—good country people, grotesque deviants, backwoods hollers, and wide, copper-colored rivers—without being labeled Faulkner-esque, your work derivative of Faulkner, your themes and language descended from a rich Faulknerian lineage. It's some wonder more southern writers aren't trying to flee from under daddy F's looming shadow, the evoked comparison being just as much of a complaint half the time as it is a compliment. Yet I ...more
Tom Mathews
Jan 15, 2016 Tom Mathews rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of Southern gothic literature
Forgive me if I borrow liberally from a review found in a blog written several years ago by Mookse and Gripes. The first paragraph matches my sentiments almost exactly. As with M&G, this is my seventh Cormac McCarthy novel and, like them,
this was his most difficult yet, perhaps because much of the time I didn’t really feel like I knew what was going on and didn’t entirely trust that the obfuscation was with valid purpose. More than any other McCarthy novel, I had to work very hard to follow
...more
Matt
Aug 10, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little worried going into this book because it is very common for a writer’s first novel to not be a good representation of that person’s entire body of work. This is often true with even the writers who go on to be canonized legends, as more often than not it takes them about two or three books to really get their literary sea legs.

While The Orchard Keeper isn’t quite at the level of Blood Meridian or Suttree, I’m still convinced that Cormac McCarthy sprang from the womb clutching a po
...more
Josh
Sep 09, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, fiction
When reading a McCarthy book, you already know what you're going to get: an obscure and erudite vocabulary full of comprehensive description; from the height of a tree, to the striations on the leaves, nothing left to ponder.

McCarthy is more about quality over quantity, yet the reader yearns for more. With it being his first novel, it displays much talent and what would eventually become an amazing literary career.

Probably a great starting point for anyone venturing out into one of his back-wood
...more
Darwin8u
Jun 12, 2013 Darwin8u rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
McCarthy is at a natural disadvantage when an obsessive reader finally works back to his first book. Invariably, McCarthy will be unfairly graded against his own amazing later output. I liked Orchard Keeper. I really did. It was superior in almost every way that matters to most serious writing out there, but it just didn't hold up against other McCarthy novels. If one considers Suttree and Blood Meridian to be his masterpieces (and thus 5 stars), and The Road , No Country for Old Men and ...more
Tamara
Feb 18, 2008 Tamara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's no question McCarthy is a brilliant prose writer. There are times when I stop in reading to marvel at his stunning verbal combinations. However the subject matter of this book just didn't appeal to me and I found the density of description overwhelming to the plot and actual characters. I knew exactly what everything looked like, smelled like, moved like, sounded like, etc, but for a good chunk of it i wouldn't have been able to tell you what was actually going on and how it related to a ...more
Szplug
Oct 29, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly intriguing and beautifully depicted but ultimately unsatisfying debut from McCarthy which arrived draped in keen, vibrant colours, with lush, fragrant descriptions of the gorgeous Tennessee landscape, earthy watercolour portraits of its taciturn characters, and the leisured pace of an Appalachian highway that tunnels through the overhanging, rainbow-spiked autumnal woods, emerging every now and then, sun-dappled and redolent of honey and cider, into the fresh breezes of open space—and ye ...more
FrankH
Jan 18, 2016 FrankH rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


Club Read: On the Southern Literary Trail

By the time he left the road and entered the woods they were coming down, the dead and leafless trunks, grasping with brittle gray fingers and going prone on the earth with muffled thunder of their fall half lost in the fulminations overhead. The old man kept to his course, over last year's leaves slick with water, hopping and dancing wildly among the maelstrom of riotous greenery like some rain sprite, burned out of near-darkness in antic configuration a
...more
Abailart
Dec 08, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
McCarthy's fisrt novel, the third of his I have read. All the signs are there! Writing without borders, dimensional shifts, thick, dreamlike. The Old Testament prophetic tone, the lyrical imagery as if somehow nature is expressing itself, and somehow too the sense that in each filmic detail, each auditory beat, you've been there to know it. Of people who were not very much in a sort of boggy, muddy, place that wasn't too much - like rubbish, always there, always, but never lasting - noticed, rem ...more
Michael
Oct 26, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Orchard Keeper was Cormac McCarthy's first book, originally published back in 1965. It was interesting reading this one closely after reading his most recent book, The Road.

(I read a very early copy of the book, with the original blurbs on the jacket. Random House was very sure of the book's popularity and importance, enough so to suggest McCarthy was a writer who would inevitably be recognized as a master at some point. They clearly had no idea it would take about 30 years for him to start
...more
JBedient
May 14, 2012 JBedient rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't believe in beach books, or airplane books, or the like, when I read I like to be challenged a little, but I have to admit this book was quite a difficult and complex read for me - perhaps too challenging in parts. I found myself rereading certain passages (sometimes because they were stunningly beautiful), restarting chapters, and flipping back a few pages because what I had just read was a blur in my mind. The way the narrative is presented here is a little disorientating and I think an ...more
Nick
Nov 20, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites
Mr. McCarthy, sir, you are taking over my life. Even the music I'm listening to...I can't get enough of that slide guitar twang. I've fallen for those outlaw country bands (even the new guys like Tim Barry or Ben Nichols). And once again, sir, you did not let me down with your first novel the Orchard Keeper.

Sure, it was a little confusing with the shifting narration, denoted with italics, that sometimes takes place in the middle of a conversation. I sometimes wasn't quite sure whom nor when thes
...more
Ginny_1807
Sep 10, 2012 Ginny_1807 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanzi, america
Sorprendente romanzo di esordio, nel quale trovano già espressione le principali tematiche che costituiranno il nucleo portante delle opere più mature di questo magnifico scrittore.
È un libro aspro, percorso da una violenza strisciante, insidiosa e inarrestabile, una storia di equivoci e di segreti, di maturazione e di lealtà, di solitudine e di disincanto.
I protagonisti non sono eroi, ma individui che lottano per l’esistenza, un’esistenza che non regala nulla, ma piuttosto toglie, crudelmente
...more
Suzy
Jan 20, 2016 Suzy marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzy by: On the Southern Literary Trail Jan 2016 Group Read
Occasionally lyrical, mostly overwrought, I couldn't figure out what was going on. The writing got in the way of understanding for me as if McCarthy was trying too hard to be poetic. This is his first book; it is my first McCarthy. Would I have stuck with it if I had read something else by him? What I know is that I put it down after about 60 pages, deciding it was not for me.
Aprile
Jun 17, 2012 Aprile rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
leggere Cormac per me è come aprire gli occhi su un mondo che non ho mai preso in considerazione, ogni pagina mi accresce perchè sento il travaglio dell'autore che ha poi portato a quella creazione, e il risultato è così maturo e definitivo, quasi un dato di fatto, nulla si può obiettare alla definizione così precisa e non pedante delle varie personalità, solo il fatto che nulla è facile, ma così è la vita
Sundry
Oct 02, 2007 Sundry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, so decided to start with his first novel and work my way forward. Aarg. This was the only book I had easy access to on the plane to Indiana or I wouldn’t have gotten halfway through it.

I am a pretty astute reader, I think, but I couldn’t keep track of the characters and couldn’t find anyone or thing that I liked enough to keep going. Too bad.
Dillwynia Peter
Jan 18, 2016 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are new to McCarthy, this isn't the one to start reading - go try All the Pretty Horses or No Country for Old Men - because being his 1st there are a few problems & I suspect most people will be turned away. I am a big fan of McCarthy & I almost gave up in those 1st 30-50 pages. I'll explain why: the beginning is written in the style of someone copying Faulkner. It also happens to be impenetrable (a number of times I would need to re-read a page to find out what was happening/ bei ...more
Merilee
Dec 06, 2010 Merilee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What beautifully luminescent writing to impend with doom. McCarthy writes like an angel to describe a hell of Prohibition-era mountain-country Tennessee. I want to read everything he's written! So far I had only read The Road, whose writing I could well appreciate, but, as those who know me know, I don't like post-apocalyptic narratives.
James Murphy
Sep 21, 2011 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What you most notice about Cormac McCarthy's writing is how beautifully he writes. Not long ago I read a critical essay singing the values of more declarative sentences and less ornate description to create a simpler, more beautiful prose. McCarthy, though he writes declarative sentences, was one of those singled out as an example of someone who writes poorly. His fictional style, it was said, is too muscular and therefore so extravagantly expressed that it distracts from the story and character ...more
Michele
Dec 22, 2010 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wheee! I finally finished this book! Which means that I've only started. Now I have a ton of questions... obviously I'll need to do several re-reads. I'm sorry now that I waited so long to read it... I really, truly wasn't interested in reading it at all at first. It really is a fast read, and I might have had time to do an immediate second reading before feeling threatened by my (teetering) to-be-read pile--or at least a closer read (though I don't know that I was ready for a closer read the fi ...more
John
Jan 21, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Diane I picked this one off the night table and gave it a read. After Blood Meridian I about had my fill of Cormac McCarthy.

I liked everything about this book. The italicized sections seemed to be coming from each of the three main characters adding a slightly skewed perspective to the action at hand. I appreciated how the story was a collection of antidotes rather than a plot driven sledge hammer.

Frank has a terrific set of thoughts. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Jeremy
As a lot of people have noticed, this partakes very heavily of the southern literary tradition. It IS a Faulknerian book, but you sort of have to cede those comparisons by default because, as his first published work, it isn't yet fully representative of the rich, dark style he really makes his own a few novels later. But even an OK Mccarthy novel is often descriptively gorgeous enough to make you not care too much. And you can definitely see flashes here of what he would go on to develop in Blo ...more
Nate
While reading this book I had to constantly remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere. I admire McCarthy in many ways, having read three of his publications and bits and pieces of most everything else. But if I were to give the reader a disclaimer it is: Everyone must start somewhere.

The novel centers around three independent characters all living in the same rural Tennessee hill community. It's filled with elegaic descriptions of nature, concrete actions of the characters and a delibe
...more
Ben Crandell
Jan 30, 2011 Ben Crandell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Orchard Keeper was Cormac McCarthy’s first novel. I have enjoyed several of his books, and this happens to be the last one of his that I read. First of all this one isn’t so bloody. That said, there is still a bit of darkness to his tale like all of his other books. What I love are his prose and spot on descriptions of the most fantastic aspects of life. Sometimes I felt like I was right there in the forest, or under the roof listening to the rain, or watching water of the stream. I am a suc ...more
Ron
Feb 20, 2012 Ron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy's poetic style is in full bloom in his first novel and there is great beauty in that, but he strives so hard to make every single small and insignificant detail full of poetic and metaphorical import that it becomes overwhelming and exhausting for the reader. The main problem with his approach is that his novels are often short on plot and character and long on theme, and long passages are often like stream-of-consciousness style writing that leave an already disconnected--because we do ...more
Kevin
Nov 03, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went through a period a while back where I read all of McCarthy's books in one giant rush. It was a sorrowful time for me, and the agonies that McCarthy has studded throughout all his works just seemed as givens; they were the types of heartbreak that I felt were to be expected in life and hardly registered.

Today I'm a far better state, happy and content, and these sufferings he portrays are almost too much to bear. The further I got into the story and the more I remembered about this particul
...more
Joel
Oct 28, 2014 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So after finishing The Orchard Keeper, I'm not really sure what happened, or if anything happened at all. I don't think that's ever been the point with McCarthy. I've yet to come across an author that puts this much detail into describing how the setting of the story may be just as important as the story its self. I read McCarthy in a hodgepodge, non-chronological fashion and was mesmerized by the depictions of the west in Blood Meridian and the border trilogy novels. Going back and reading the ...more
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Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
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“They are gone now. Fled, banished in death or exile, lost, undone. Over the land sun and wind still move to burn and sway the trees, the grasses. No avatar, no scion, no vestige of that people remains. On the lips of the strange race that now dwells there their names are myth, legend, dust.” 7 likes
“Toward early morning he woke, sat up quickly and looked about him. It was still dark and the fire had long since died, still dark and quiet with that silence that seems to be of itself listening, an astral quiet where planets collide soundlessly, beyond the auricular dimension altogether. He listened. Above the black ranks of trees the mid-summer sky arched cloudless and coldly starred. He lay back and stared at it and after a while he slept.” 6 likes
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