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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  407 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
With House of Sand and Fog, his National Book Award-nominated novel, Andre Dubus III demonstrated his mastery of the complexities of character and desire. In this earlier novel he captures a roiling time in American history and the coming-of-age of a boy who must decide between desire, ambition, and duty.

In the summer of 1967, Leo Suther has one more year of high school to
Published (first published 1993)
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The unfortunate side effect of an amazing book. Quite common, occurs more frequently than not. To what do I refer? The next book one reads by that author. To be fair, Andre Sinus III's "Bluesman" was published long before "The House of Sand and Fog" (this is notably his debut novel), but the result is the same. Try as I might to be reasonable, high expectations that are almost certainly not met.

A great book, by all means. "Bluesman" follows Leo Suther in his final year before adulthood. It is th
Rob Rogers
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
You don't have to be a fan of the blues to appreciate this lyrical novel, although you probably will be by the time you finish the book. Set in a small Western Massachusetts mill town during the summer of 1967, the story follows its 17-year-old protagonist as he navigates first love, the national argument over Vietnam, his own development as a musician and a man (not necessarily in that order) and a reckoning with his parents' past. This is a slow read -- Dubus' sentences are powerful, immediate ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It always stuns me that I rarely hear people sing the praises of this book. I usually have to reassure myself that it's just because people haven't heard of this book, but then I'm left wondering why that is, when it is so, so good. The protagonist, Leo, is written with such clarity and precision that you can't help feeling that you are him...or that you're 100% head over heels passionately in love with him. This is no easy task for an author to accomplish.

In many ways, this book encapsulates th
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Leo Sayer the young protagonist in Andre Dubus III's book the Bluesman is a young man coming of age in the time of social upheaval of the Vietnam era. Like many young man of that age his interest is sex, passion and music while trying to discover who he is and who he is going to be. Much to his delight he discovers sex with his girlfriend Allie Donovan. While being tutored by Allie on essential knowledge of the opposite sex, Leo is guided by his three father figures on the meaning of life. Leo's ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this novel. The characters have a pulse of their own. The author writes with finesse and soul. I highly recommend it
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I've been sitting around for the past couple of days, wondering why I didn't like this book more than I did. I generally am a fan of character exploration and it's not that Bluesman doesn't have memorable or important characters. They're very believably human, imperfect, sympathetic... They are the heart of this story. I should have enjoyed this. But the bulk of the book felt like it dragged. Maybe it was the monotone of the storytelling. While very vivid, the prose was rambling. It was all just ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This coming of age story feels like a first novel (it is), with an innocence and clarity of style that itrefreshing even as it is unsophisticated. Good story-telling, good characters a simple enough plot. A bonus for me, it was set in Western Mass. during the late 60s, at the beginning of the escalation of Vietnam war when your coming of age choices were: stay in school, enlist or be drafted. Heavy decisions for 18-year-olds.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This early novel is not Andre Dubus III at his best. Check my Goodreads list for some more interesting books. Still this early novel set in Massachusetts during the Vietnam War is a serviceable coming of age novel that is written in a straight forward realistic style. At time a bit slow and repetitive in its chronicling of myriad blues sessions. I would suggest you explore Dubus's talents in some other books first
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-5-stars
The first time I read this book in 2010, it helped get me out of the worst crippling depression and broken heart I have ever experienced. I thought about death almost every single day. I had no will to push forward. Seven years later, I have returned to the same cold room and accomplished a handful of cool things, including published writing and kind words from Andre about MY WRITING. This journey is so hard sometimes, but I am so grateful for words and books. Bluesman still holds a very special ...more
Jim Conant
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read two of Dubus's books so far, "Bluesman" and "House of Sand and Fog," and have been quite impressed with his writing. He reveals a deep truth about reality, which is that despite our modern devotion to the ideals of freedom and personal agency, we are often caught up in forces outside our control which sweep us to unavoidable fates. These forces can be societal, ongoing wars and so forth, but they are even more directly individual personality traits which control our interactions indepe ...more
David Clark
Apr 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I find much to enjoy and admire in Andre Dubus's prose. His writing creates lyrical but lean sentences that often produces a kind of wonder that forces me to ask: How did he do that?
The novel Bluesman surely holds much lovely writing with spot-on era-appropriate descriptions and excellent dialogue. However, I confess it was the story that ultimately disappointed. The coming-of-age story of young Leo Struther and his first love Allie starts well enough, but does not "finish."

As a writer, I know
Joel Mongeon
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Summer of Love? Check. Small town in Massachusetts? Check. Vietnam? Check. Everything I like reading about is present in this book. So why didn't I like it? I guess the story felt contrived to me. The protagonist is from such an insular community and it felt like all the themes of late-60's America were being forced on the setting by the author. And yes, the diversity of characters is such that the fictional Heywood, MA can be seen as a microcosm of all of America during 1967. But I don't think ...more
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite giving this 4 stars I was kind of disappointed in it. The writing and mood of the book are great. Dubus does a great job of having that bluesy feeling permeate the story and really makes it feel poignant.

However. This is basically an incredibly un-unique story about angsty teens, summer love, and thinking about their future. A pretty standard and plain bildungsroman. What happens in this story has happened to millions of kids and been told in hundreds of books. The romance is standard pu
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it
After the stunning "House of Sand and Fog," I guess I was a bit let down by this coming-of-age story set in small-town Mass. in the late '60s. I certainly remember the times when the nation was teetering in its support for Nam and boys were sweating having to register for the draft.

Leo just seems to float through life, buffeted by whatever wind blows his way. I never really CARED about him as a protagonist. The ease with which he becomes a harmonica virtuoso is laughably in accurate, and I never
I really enjoyed this novel. Set in late 1960's small town America - Massachusetts to be precise - it is primarily a tale about the relationship between a naive, romantic 17 year old boy and a much more grounded 16 year old girl. The boy is Leo, the Bluesman of the title and the girl is called Ellie.

It's a fairly simple tale of boy meets girl set against the prevailing themes of late 60's America: the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam war and the Summer of Love. But these are all just ripples i
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dubus sets this novel up as if it might turn out to be the great American novel, but he fails to follow through on some of his themes (war and communist v capitalist) and doesn't get much farther on his main one, young love and sex and growing up. Stuff just happens. And, given the critical importance of Allie, her character is not explored much at all: we don't know why she is the way she is. Aside from Leo, the only character we see into (more than a moderate amount) is his mother, who died ye ...more
Sally Pearce
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Dubus III lovers.
Shelves: read-in-2011
BLUESMAN is Dubus's first novel. It's not well known like THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG and THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS. This is a true coming-of-age story. Leo is about to turn 18 and he loves Allie. It is a summer of love for both of them with all of the angst and good and bad that such love brings. The time is 1967, deep into the Vietnam War (which we all know wasn't really a war). All the pathos and joy of first love is explored in detail. To tell any more would spoil the story.

I loved this book, es
Andrew Smith
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This writer never fails to engage me, to make me care. This book, an early output from him, took me a while to get into. The story of a working class boy coming of age in New England in the 60's was interesting enough but I found the detailed musical descriptions distracting at first. I got used to these (though I never really understood them) and grew to understand how important they were in understanding the culture of the family group the boy was living in. By the end of the story I was tenta ...more
Jason Carpenter
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book and the characters involved. Dubas is one of my favorite authors and he just seems to have the ability to place you into a story like few writers can. I think this book is even more amazing considering it was his first novel.

This story is a coming of age novel in my view, but also so much more than that. Poor Leo, I felt so badly for him and what he's going through. Jim is a great character and reminds me so much of my own father.

Beautiful story, great writing and a mu
Nancy Jurss
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Sweet coming of age story. Set in the summer of 1967 in a small town in Massachusetts, all of the turbulent events of that summer simmer in the background while Leo finds girl, loses girl and baby, and impulsively enlists in the Army. Along the way he also learns to play the harmonica to join in with his father and Father's friend's weekly music get-together and reads his late mother's diaries which chronicle much of her own coming of age. Dubus does a great job of reminding us of the confusion ...more
Andre Dumas
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This was just OK for me. Dubus' first novel is nowhere near as provocative or beautifully written as House of Sand and Fog but the characters are still well defined and worth getting to know. My main disappointment is that the more interesting themes---communism, even blues music seemed pushed aside for the rather flat and drab teenage romance at the novel's center. Their relationship seemed to take off in .5 seconds and oftentimes felt immature. This would have worked if the novel was in first ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A story of a young mans coming of age in 1967, with the backdrop of Vietnam and a blues playing father. He learns to play harmonica, falls in love , and has to face some of lifes harsh realities. This generated some fascinating stories in book discussion, as it seems many of our members have their own memories of the 60's and the summer of love. Who knew?
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is my favorite of this particular Dubus thus far. The lines are simple and clean, beautiful yet mournful. The characters and what they think and do really get under the skin. A lot of people may prefer "House of Sand and Fog," but I felt a much stronger pull from this one. There's just something about it that resonates more deeply with me.
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This was really a three and half stars for me. I thought the author did a good job developing the characters, and I like that the ending was not tied up with a pretty bow. The book reminds the reader how teenagers make impetuous decisions that often force them to grow up quickly. This was a sweet coming of age story.
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Soo so sorry not to love this, because I have loved everything ADIII has written, but this is a very early effort and he had a lot to learn. I couldn't get into the blues music journey, the language was self-conscious more often than supple, and apart from Leo himself the characters were cartoonish. I gave up after 50 pps. but still a huge fan of all the others.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this for book club. Very good book led to very good group discussion. Interesting story and I enjoyed the unfolding of the back story through Katie Faye's diaries. Story set in the summer of 1967; added color and character.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Okay, but not something I would read again. I don't know what it was about the author's style of writing, but it just didn't pull me in. I didn't like the character of Allie either...she just ticked me off.
Paul Grimsley
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this was a beautiful read -- one of those unexpected finds that i took home from the library as much for the cover art as the blurb. definitely worth it. it has a voice that people would probably describe as authentic -- i think warm and resonant might be a better description.
Mary L.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gritty book about "working" people, their lives, their dreams. Similiar to everyone's reality; there are no happy ever after endings, just an accurate portrayal of life. As with any Andre Dubus III book it is well written.
Dave Gaston
A stormy coming of age tale told with depth and honesty. A beautifully written book. To describe on paper the real soul and the welled up emotion behind a blues tune is a gift and a true accomplishment. Dubus uses simple words to deliver electric dialog and vivid descriptions. (12/31)
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Andre Dubus III is the author of The Garden of Last Days, House of Sand and Fog (a #1 New York Times bestseller, Oprah’s Book Club pick, and finalist for the National Book Award) and Townie, winner of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His writing has received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. He lives with ...more