tim's Reviews > Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
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Jul 16, 10

Read in July, 2010

The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.

During a recent trip to the local bookstore, a discount stack of Lonesome Dove caught my distracted eye. Picking up a copy, I randomly flipped through to read three separate passages. And like an amnesiac, I promptly forgot all about the books I sought to find in the first place. Because this here was the book I didn’t know I needed to read right now.

At its core is a simple enough story—an epic cattle drive, not long after the Civil War, from southern Texas to northern Montana—but there’s nothing simple or subtle about the effects the various undercurrent narratives had on me.

As wild and raw as the vivid landscapes were continuously invoked, it is with the characters where this novel truly excels. Among a handful of major characters, I often forgot many of them were constructs made of words. That they seemed more real than the sum of a limited amount of words continually amazed me. Even minor characters came to life quickly and lingered long after exiting stage left, leaving behind solemn shadows.

Death and humor are doled out abundantly and in roughly equal measures, striking a necessary balance. For as commonly as death occurs, it often occurs violently. Not quite with the same force-fed frequency as found in Blood Meridian, but at times on the same level of intensity. That’s where the humor here helps temper the unexpected and ubiquitous death.

More than a good deal of this book’s humor emanates from one, if not the main character—Augustus McCrae. A man…I mean, a fictional character not likely to leave my thoughts anytime soon. Crowding around Gus in this harsh and brutal world are many other prominent characters, not least of all a couple of especially strong-willed women woven into the essence of this long tale.

As long as this story may be, it reads more like a novella, so quickly do the pages fly by. And when the last page passes, it passes by without complete closure—highlighting the way we all experience life outside these books. Life coming and going, surrounding everyone until abandoning us one by one. As though death were life’s joke on us all.
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Reading Progress

07/09/2010 page 675
78.0% 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Sonya Beautiful review of a great novel.


message 2: by Krok Zero (new)

Krok Zero You gonna read the sequel, Timbo? I find it interesting that McMurtry seems to be the only respectable literary author who likes to do sequels.


message 3: by tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

tim Thank you, Sonya.

Krok: I've read that the other three installments in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy don't quite live up to this one. But since this was so good, someday I just might have to find out for myself.


Mariel Great review!

I'd thought of reading the sequels (and Last Picture Show) but my friend said they were disappointing. I suppose I should find out for myself sometime.


Sonya The Last Picture Show is a wonderful novel. Nothing at all like Lonesome Dove, but it's a slim gem.


message 6: by tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

tim Thanks, Mariel. Let me know if you ever decide to read them, I'd be curious to know what you think.


Mariel I will!

Slim gem- I love that.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Cripps I cannot suggest, exhort, even plead enough with those of you above who have read and enjoyed Lonesome Dove to make the commitment to read the others in the series.

I have just finished Streets of Laredo (the final book) for the 3rd time and still gasped, cried and laughed as I read.

I think that they are all good in their own way.

Dead Man's Walk is set when Gus and Woodrow are much younger and have just joined the Rangers. Their experiences in the story are brutal. As in LD, death and hardship go hand in hand throughout. The ending is a real surprise and brilliantly written.

Comanche Moon revolves around the great Comanche raids of the late 1850's and follows Gus and Woodrow in their elevated roles as Captains.

Streets of Laredo follows LD and an outstanding feature is how McMurtry has moved the characters on as time indeed would have done.

I found these books so powerful that while visiting the US each October for a tennis camp in the 1990's, I would spend the following week in a different western state each year sight seeing all the heritage sites from the days of the opening up of the old West.

While doing this travelling, I took in the sites that McMurty used in the books. So I've stayed in modern day Ogallala and sat on the rim of the Palo Duro Canyon (not really featured in LD, but featured heavily in the others).

Indeed, for Xmas, I have just bought my 87 year-old Mum (who also LOVES the books) a copy of the book made of photographs of the making of the mini series with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. She will gasp when she sees it as it is a beautiful book.

And when I get to bed in a minute, I'm reading now about the Chisholm Trail (which the Hat Creek Outfit probably used) and how it developed as the drives and the cattle busines flourished around the time that Jake made the sggestion to Call about Montana (or Montany, as Gus calls it).

So my new friends (this is my first post on here), get reading and get back to Deets, Jake, Newt, Maggie, Lorena, Clara, Dish, Jasper et al. You won't be disappointed.


Abigail I agree. This is an unforgettable story!


Susan Colleen Crawford Tim, I would love to read more of *your* writings. Seriously.


message 11: by tim (last edited Dec 07, 2011 01:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

tim Hi Susan, thank you for your very kind words. I've not had much time lately or been in much of a review writing mood, but I will try to find time and muster up the will soon. Again, thank you for such a nice note.


Susan Colleen Crawford I actually meant a novel, but whenever you feel like it, you have an appreciative audience awaiting! :)


message 13: by tim (last edited Dec 07, 2011 02:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

tim *blushes*


Steve You truly did this justice, Tim. Tremendous review!

My daughter just recently finished this one after my wife and I goaded her into it. Now, as a family, we've given it 15 stars.


message 15: by tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

tim Hey, thanks Steve. Very kind of you to say. This really is an exceptional book. Even with five years now gone by since reading this, it still remains vivid in my mind, unlike some books from from more recent times. How awesome that it has now been enjoyed by your entire family. Maybe someday my seven year old son will take an interest in it, perhaps with some persistent yet subtle nudging. And thanks for your incredible review of Orfeo. I've read a few of Richard Powers books and your assessment of his genius, as you say, seemed right on the mark to me. I look forward to checking that one out soon.


Steve Great to hear, Tim. I'm sure if you've enjoyed Powers in the past, you'll really like Orfeo.

Maybe someday I'll read a review of Lonesome Dove by your daughter. Sounds like it won't be soon, though, if she's only seven.


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