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Raintree County

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  812 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Throughout a single day in 1892, John Shawnessy recalls the great moments of his life—from the love affairs of his youth in Indiana, to the battles of the Civil War, to the politics of the Gilded Age, to his homecoming as schoolteacher, husband, and father. Shawnessy is the epitome of the place and period in which he lives, a rural land of springlike women, shady gamblers, ...more
Paperback, 1088 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 1948)
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Mar 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to review: it will definitely not be everybody's cup of tea. I had started it once years before, then set it aside, and finally read it at a point in my life when I had the time and the patience. It is massive! But I've never read anything at all like it. It's about America and Americans, Time, Fantasy, the 19th Century, and lots more. Ultimately I found it to be a fascinating, provocative, and important work of American literature. At this point in time the 1957 MGM movie ad ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Raintree County" is an American version of Tolstoy's "War and Peace".
I've actually read "War and Peace". Lockridge's "Raintree County" rises to that level--and, in my estimation--surpasses it. I love the Russians--Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev. And I love Walt Whitman and Ross Lockridge for the same reason. They all have what the Spanish call "duende," what the American blacks clamor to express by the word "soul". These aren't weak, spineless, effete Victorians afraid of beauty, passion, shame
Cym Lowell
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It may seem odd to be writing a review of a book written more than 60 years ago. In my case, the book is vibrant and meaningful. Raintree County is set in a mythical part of Indiana close to where I grew up, in Bloomington. The author, Ross Lockridge Jr. lived just down the street from my family. He was a young man. He was also a friend of our neighbor, Alfred Kinsey, for whom my mother, Mildred Hawksworth Lowell a Professor of Library Science at Indiana University, was librarian for Dr. Kinsey’ ...more
Keith Wright
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in mythical panoramas that try to capture the nascient American spirit
The saying that it is not the destination but the path comes to mind when I think of this book. Johnny's attempt to find the mythical raintree, from which flows endless prosperity is the destination; however, it is the path, strewn with prototypes from American history, that stand out most in my mind. The prose remember in this way; in addition to being lyrical, like a river, each chapter ends in an incomplete sentence that is finished by the subject of the first sentence in the next chapter. It ...more
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the idea of the Great American Novel
This gets a mention (or two or three) in Thomas Mallon's excellent novel about the year 1948, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. I've read bits and pieces of RAINTREE COUNTY, but the reason I know anything at all about it is that, sometime in the 1970s a dual biography of its author and the author of MISTER ROBERTS was reviewed on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Both authors had huge bestsellers the same year (1948) and, even though they did not know each other, they both did something very ...more
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some reviewer wrote that the author knew a lot of words and used them all in Raintree County. It's true, on occasion he could have benefited from a more careful editor, but with the exception of a few tedious passages, I was very happy with this novel. It was creative, interesting, and thoughtful. The main character, Johnny Shawnessey, is a complex person. This is a good thing because the book is 1060 pages and it darn well better be gripping. I enjoyed the conceit of the entire novel spanning o ...more
Rachel Mahoney
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a review already here by Sonnetal (sorry if I spelled this incorrectly) but it says it all. This is one of the GREAT American novels and it's been neglected. Lockridge killed himself in despair only two months after it was published, and selling well. His publisher had cut the extended dreamlike ending and it seems to have tipped over an already tippable soul. They were probably right. As it stands, this novel is almost perfect. I too love the Russians. Here was our Russian.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Raise your hand if you have heard of Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.? I hadn't until Jared Carter handed me a copy of the book a few months ago. I very much wish I had found this book earlier, though, perhaps, I may not have enjoyed it as much (I did not really appreciate Moby-Dick until well after college). Speaking of Moby-Dick, I have always considered that novel THE American novel. Raintree County does not displace Melville's masterpiece, but it definitely comes in with the silver med ...more
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This forgotten beauty is close enough to the Great American Novel for me. It has everything such a idea contains: a sweeping look at America's most turbulent time on its own shores, a tremendous love story, glorious writing shot through with poetry, a mystical center that ought to lie at every story. People should read this. They need it.
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A big beautiful book, lost to us, but it shouldn't be. It is so American, so poetic, so magical. Come back, Mr. Lockridge. You shouldn't have killed yourself.
Heather Moore
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a first edition of this. Great story! Love, loss, friendship, war; it has it all and is written perfectly.
Stephen Gallup
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an ambitious work, probably a conscious attempt at achieving the elusive Great American Novel. My copy is old, with small print that doesn't contrast well on somewhat yellowed pages -- and so my first reaction on picking it up was to question whether reading it would be worth the trouble. A few paragraphs in, the intelligent, sculpted prose settled that.

Still, I agree with reviewers who say the book is too long. My edition is 985 pages and by the time I got into the last few hundred I wa
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Legend has it Johnny Appleseed wandered the midwest, carrying among his apple seeds a single, exotic seed from the golden Rain tree. ( Looking for a place it would flourish and grow, he planted it somewhere in Henry County, IN, the place where Ross Lockridge grew up.) Legend has it that those who find the Rain tree discover the realization of all dreams. Mr Lockridge takes us on a journey to find this sacred tree of life through the wanderings of John Wycliff Shawnessys life.

The story begins on
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stuff-i-love, fiction
Herman Wouk wrote in his intro to the edition I have that this is the Great American Novel. Well, maybe not, but it IS a great novel. This is one of those books that you could open at nearly any page and find something wonderful to quote. Lockridge creates his characters as inextricably tied to the very land of Raintree County; it shapes them, gives them life, calls them home, and helps them know their own identities. Its chronological setting is the latter half of the 19th century, with its cen ...more
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is really unfortunate that Lockridge didn't live to write more. He is amazingly prescient in speaking to the future of the United States through a story about its past. His characterizations of the actors on the American stage are pitch perfect, the slimy politician, the corrupt financier, a hypocritical preacher man, a powerful Feminist, an actress whose character is a prism of the stage, and, while I leave an important number out, a quiet poet who remains home in the midwest while his frien ...more
Kim Rendfeld
This book has an interesting story and gives the reader a look at 19th century Midwestern life before and after the Civil War. Its non-chronological structure places several emotional climaxes at the end.

However, it could have used tigher editing. This reader could have done without the dream sequences and did not need to know the characters' opinions of every philosophical subject.Some of the sexual attitudes expressed were also disturbing, even though this book is tame by today's standards.

Wooden Boater
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They say this is the Great American Novel and it is. Few seem to know it. Few seem to have read it. But it's exactly what the Great American Novel ought to be. Poetic, mystic, a deep connection to the land in a time of great turmoil, the conflict between the North and the South, and a mythical Raintree somewhere in Indiana. Superb.
Stuart Desbrisay
A wonderful, unique novel that deserves to be better known today. There may be too much of it, but it's overall quality is impressive. It is an elegiac portrait of America and Americans that is moving and sly and like nothing else! If you don't know this book, you should seek it out, it is an overlooked masterpiece.
What a great book. It covers one day in a life, and the memories of a lifetime... Many may say that this is the Great American Novel. I agree. As I read it, the novel calls up images of America similar to Whitman. I highly recommend it.
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As of now, the greatest book I've ever read.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He was always arriving in train stations from parts unknown to meet himself departing for unknown parts.

He emerged from his schooling with the conviction that Liberty and Union were one and inseparable, that George Washington was the greatest man who ever lived, and that two plus two equalled four in Raintree County and throughout the universe. Above all, he acquired a holy faith in the printed word.

Now we all agree, do we not, that no man can or does exist in rational society without a
Douglas Perry
Oct 14, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was hailed as The Great American Novel when it was published in 1948. Nope. Not close. I read it cover to cover, all 1,246 pages, and I can attest that it is the worst novel I've ever read that I actually managed to finish. The characters are cardboard cutouts, the plot slow and predictable, the philosophy (given, of course, by "The Perfessor" [sic]) at once pretentious and trite. I slogged several hundred pages into the book, saying to myself, "Surely, this novel cannot possibly conti ...more
Gregory Garland
I have ambivalent feelings about this book, one that some consider an overlooked Great American Novel. At 1,100 pages, I found it by turns frustrating, enjoyable and exhausting. I almost put it down and gave up on it more than once. It ultimately was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, though. I was okay with the structure of switching back and forth in time -- that wasn't a problem -- but the author went off several times on pages of poetical and philosophical flights of fancy tha ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A strange book. The Civil War part was excellent. The rest was tedious for the most part. The writing is familiar in a mid-20th century way, but I've seen this done better. Surprising how much sex is in this thing, too. Even that turns out to be tedious in Lockridge's hands. A shame he killed himself.
Christine Sinclair
Yes, it's long, yes, it could have been edited a bit more, but it was so engrossing, so interestingly structured and surprisingly entertaining. It took me such a long time to read it; now I'M from Raintree County! I really admire Mr. Lockridge's way with words. Next, his son's memoir about his father's tragic suicide at age 33.
May 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midwest
The author was a distant relative of the family, so I got designated to be the one member of the family to actually finish it. It's billed as a Great American Novel, and that pretty much says it all - it's chock-full of all the self-important blowhardiness, vaguely drug-addled descriptive passages, and somnia-inducing length you'd expect. Not my style at all.
Aug 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The writing style was so florid that I just couldn't get past it to enjoy the storyline or characters.
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
See my review on my book blog:
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh I remember reading this SO long ago and just lingering on each and every word. Its a wonderful book.
Charr Skirvin
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Having started this book several times in the past and having given up because it was sooooo long, I finally decided to give it the time it deserves. It's a wonderful book. I loved it.
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Ross Franklin Lockridge, Jr., (April 25, 1914 – March 6, 1948) was an American novelist of the mid-20th century. He is noted for Raintree County (1948), a widely praised novel which many readers and critics considered a contender for the "Great American Novel," and for his death by suicide just as it was reaching the top of the best-seller lists.
More about Ross Lockridge Jr....
“We loved—and were fated to sorrow. But from our striving and from our sorrow we fashioned The Oldest Story in the World.” -1 likes
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