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Painted Horses

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,676 ratings  ·  372 reviews
In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.

Catherine Lemay is a young ar
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Grove Press
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Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Tom McIntyre, himself a damn good writer, once explained to me why he wouldn't read any of the NY Times ballyhooed best sellers:

"They're all written by middleclass kids from nice middleclass suburbs who went to good schools and good colleges, and then on to the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and then moved to Brooklyn where they all write about the terrible trials and tribulations and pressures and neuroses of growing up in nice middleclass suburbs and going to good schools and good colleges and on to
Reff Girl
Mar 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
I am a sucker for a Western novel. Give me sage brush and quaking aspens, horses and scuffed saddles. My family lives in Big Sky country and I have shelves of my favorite authors such as Annie Proulx, Ivan Doig, Stanley Gordon West, Mildred Walker, Thomas Savage, Larry Colton, and Craig Johnson. Unfortunately, Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks is one Western novel you might want to pass up.

In this sprawling debut novel, we meet twenty three-year- old archeologist Catherine Lemay who is on a tra
Nicole Overmoyer
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Malcolm Brooks’ PAINTED HORSES has a beautiful cover. The blurb on the back of my copy of the book reads almost as beautiful. Few readers wouldn’t get hooked by the romanticism and untouched landscape alluded to by talk of the open Montana range in the 1950s. It’s another time and it’s another place, one that is recent but not too recent that we know it too well.

As a woman, I was caught by the idea of a female archaeologist – a childhood dream of mine – working the ancient native lands there.
Joy D
In this sprawling saga, protagonist Catherine Lemay, a novice archeologist, travels from New York to Montana to evaluate if there is anything of historical significance in the area targeted for flooding to create a hydroelectric dam. The year is 1956. She has one summer to investigate a vast swath of canyon. She is ill-equipped to handle such a massive task. Her guide appears to be more interested in finding wild horses than helping with her assignment. She enlists the assistance of a young Crow ...more
Dick Reynolds
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

The book opens with this sentence fragment: London, even the smell of it. As I continued reading, I quickly became confused. Is this woman in England or in Montana? I had to read the first section of Chapter One three times before I understood what was going on. I saw several more sentence fragments in this first section. Here’s another example: Minuscule horsemen galloping. In a later section of Chapter One I found this one: Eaten by the Apache.
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
Malcolm Brooks is a very talented writer. He consistently uses words to color his scenes so well that the reader can smell and hear what his characters are experiencing and the characters themselves emerge as complete and complex beings who evoke the full range of human emotion. The central character in PAINTED HORSES is a young woman archaeologist, Catherine Lemay. She has taken on a job from the Smithsonian to search a canyon in Montana for anything of historical significance, prior to its’ fl ...more
Carlo Ruggiero
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Uncorrected proof copy received through GoodReads giveaway program - thanks to Grove Atlantic for providing it.

This is an ambitious and engaging novel from first-time author Brooks. Painted Horses is being compared to Cormac McCarthy's Borderlands trilogy, but thankfully is not written in the same style; Brooks at least uses quotation marks when one of his characters is speaking. However, incomplete sentences or fragments are used and, while this may not detract from the narrative or mean much t
I loved this book! Everything about it. If it had not been for one of my reading groups I may never have heard of it and that would have been a shame.

A beyond plucky heroine, a young archaeologist, is hired by the Smithsonian Institute to find any historical relics that will end up under water once a new dam is built on former Native American ground in Montana. It is the mid 1950s and Katherine is dealing with being a woman in a completely man's world along with the strict upbringing she has int
Bonnie Staughton
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was a GoodReads Giveaway book that I won. As I have a passion for horses and an interest in Native Americas and the Western part of our country, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the area & the Native customs. I cringed with disgust at the behavior of "big business" but I have no doubt that this kind of behavior went on in that era. I was definitely "rooting" for Catherine & John H with their passion for seeking out archaeological finds and the "old" ways. It was a good book with a lot o ...more
Tricia Douglas
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a different kind of story! A young woman becomes infatuated with archeology around 1955 instead of pursuing her musical love of the piano. She is hired by the Smithsonian to search for artifacts in the Montana wilderness before a dam project is started and everything is lost forever. She meets mustanger John H, a true patriot of this area, along with native Indians and those individuals determined to stop what Catherine is doing. There doesn't seem much of interest here when I describe the ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible debut novel! Set in the 1950s in the rough and tumble world of Montana with flashbacks to World War II (and earlier), it's the story of a young Eastern archaeologist who discovers the culture of the Crow and cowboys. It's the story of an Army cavalry vet who has a remarkable ability to communicate and train with horses, but not very well with people. It's also the story of industry coming to the West and the price that is paid for it.

This is a wonderful book on so many levels. One,
Ronald Roseborough
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic first novel. It’s a bit of the classic western, with lots of wild horses and open spaces. Yet it takes us down new trails that lead to unexpected, but exciting places. A young woman archeologist, Catherine LeMay, fresh from university and an opportune find in the war torn rubble that still defines parts of London 10 years after the end of World War LL. Catherine is now headed to the American West. The Smithsonian and a Montana power and light company are sponsoring her to sea ...more
Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink*
This book was unexpected.

I went into it thinking it would be a nice, somewhat fluffy, romance in the American West where there was a happily ever after and everything is good.

That's not what I got at all and I'm completely okay with that.

Painted Horses follows the story of a young archaeologist sent to Montana to discover whatever she can about a canyon before it is flooded. She is fresh out of London where a historical dig resulted in the discovery of an ancient Roman temple and the West just d
My thoughts:
This debut novel explored themes of preservation/environmental issues vs. progress, the complications of the past intruding on the present to fulfill future ambitions, and a peek into the expectations of women based on class and race. The primary setting for the novel is the 1950s Montana while flashbacks into the history of the main characters provided for me intriguing events that kept me reading when the storyline faltered for me.
The setup for the story was great and the prose tra
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horses
4.5 stars. This is a big, literary Western, my favorite genre, filled with horses and grand vistas and a bit of magical realism. It took a while to get into, but I am glad I stuck it out. It covers a lot of ground, and alternates between two characters: Catherine, a young archaeologist and John H, an almost mythical cowboy figure who is both artist and horse-whisperer.

I loved John H’s story, and raced through these parts, which took us all over the country, as well as to Italy, France, and Spain
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
It's not very often that I buy a BRAND NEW hardback book...but I was stuck in the airport and decided to splurge. I wish I hadn't picked this book.

If you're like me, you might be about half way through the book and checking reviews to wonder if you should even bother finishing it. If that's the case, I would suggest that you finish... somewhere around 300+ pages into the book it does improve some.

This book presents itself like a giant outline -- the basics of what could have been a wonderful st
Sep 08, 2014 rated it liked it
This should have been a great book. The setting is awe inspiring, the characters well drawn and interesting, and the plot kept me reading when I wanted to give up on Brooks' very disjointed and sometimes downright confusing narrative style. I very nearly didn't read this book at all, the first two pages of description/memory/flashback/dream were probably the worst opening pages of any novel I have ever read. It doesn't get quite that bad again but I had to back track on numerous occasions when t ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two stars out of five
I'll start by saying this book was not for me. I struggled to follow the format in parts and half-way through I almost gave up on it. I couldn't connect with the story. Overall the descriptions of the scenery throughout the book were very well done, but I felt that it lacked when it came to the characters. I like being able to connect with the characters as I read and found it hard to do that in this book. It seemed to be drawn out in sections, but then rushed the ending lea
Jul 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
This book is set in 1950's Montana. Young Catherine Lemay, an archeologist, is sent to a vast canyon in Montana to determine whether there is any historical significance before the construction of a dam commences.

When she arrives, she is out of her element, but proves herself by taking control of her situation and painstakingly navigates the area with a gruff guide, Jack Allen. Catherine also encounters an elusive horseman, John H, that she is drawn to, but can't fathom how he will influence he
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Deep seated parental expectations collide with modern aspirations of youth. A young woman raised on Bach and manners , sent to Oxford to study piano, finds her love of archaeology as she digs in the depths of London's WWII destruction. Back in the states, working on a summer project for the Smithsonian to excavate in Montana prior to a massive dam and hydroelectric project, she finds herself in the middle of an entirely different experience.

Anger, hostility, resentment deep as the canyon. Progre
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Catherine Lemay was expected to further her talent as a pianist and marry an acceptable businessman. Her dreams, however, led her into archaeology. Although she had no experience in the west she was hired to do a study of a proposed dam site in Montana. Here she met with people who had different value systems and life experiences including a young Crow Indian girl who she hired to help her understand what she was seeing, a loner cowboy who had a love of horses and occasionally painted them – not ...more
S.G. Wright
Dec 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I give this debut novel 3.5 or 4 stars. I listened to it as an audiobook, expertly narrated by Julia Whelan. I liked the storytelling of it, and enjoyed both lead characters -- Catherine Lemay the young archaeologist in Montana, and John H, the horseman. The author captured my imagination about these two -- their lives, and their crossed paths. It's quite an epic novel, and at times I wondered if the author was trying for too much, the scope was quite large and all over, but still I liked it and ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Stellar first novel for Malcom Brooks. Catherine Lemay is a young archeologist, hired by the Smithsonian to survey a Montana river canyon before a dam project gets the green light. Why she was hired and who helps her become tangled stories of WWII survivors, Indian politics, prehistoric relics and wild horses. Excellent sense of place and the struggle to reconcile progress at the expense of the past . . .highly recommend.
Linda Dittes
Sep 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Although I enjoyed the description of the scenery, the built out characterization of the cowboy and the horses, there lacked a full embodiment of the lead female character. I felt this hurt the story as she was not very believable and it was had to find sympathy for her. Still as a first time book, it was well researched. Read for book club and only two people said they would recommend to friends.
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked the beginning part, but got bogged down a bit in the middle. But then the John H.
backstory and the rest of the book was hard to put down! Very lyrical writing about Montana and
horses and art and archaeology and trying to save things that matter.
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked this--a good, slightly skewed Western with horses and art and archeological digs and WWII. Lots of landscape not native to this northeasterner, and picturing it was almost a whole storyline in itself.

More reviewing to come.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-read
3.5 Stars
"Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows."
Jul 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Read it for work. Liked it more than many of the other books I am assigned to read for work.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
More than just a horse story, it's about the end of the west. The evils of progress, the sexism of the 1950's and the romance of the cowboy. Didn't want it to end. ...more
Martha Newman
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and the subtle layers the author built. His depiction of the times, the vast country, and a whole way of life was very moving.
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