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The Big Sky

(The Big Sky #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  4,402 ratings  ·  409 reviews
A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction.

Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersme
Paperback, 386 pages
Published January 9th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1947)
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Leland Hamner 1830 to 1843. Best book I've read dealing with the mountain man/northern plains Indians era.…more1830 to 1843. Best book I've read dealing with the mountain man/northern plains Indians era.(less)
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Best Westerns
1,112 books — 1,339 voters
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyTrue Grit by Charles PortisThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Literary Westerns
249 books — 346 voters

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James Thane
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first novel in A, B. Guthrie, Jr.'s trilogy about the settlement of the American West. It spans the years from 1830 to 1843, or roughly from the time that fur trappers and traders, along with the American Indians, had the Far West pretty much to themselves, until the time when settlements were growing up along the Missouri River, when steamboats were plying the western waters, and when settlers were beginning to think about making the overland journey to Oregon.

At the center of the s
Scott Axsom
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I particularly love fiction when the allegory and the story march hand-in-hand to a natural conclusion. I don’t need to be spoon-fed, I just relish when the character and the polemic arrive at similar points, after similar journeys. Sounds simple… but, not so much.

The Big Sky is a beautifully written novel that takes some getting used to. It’s about the mountain men of the West during the years 1835-43 and A.B. Guthrie’s style is a perfect fit for the era and the people, whom he so lyrically des
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western
"You want to go to St. Louis, don't you, Boone? That's what counts. Not this here. You want to trap beaver and fight Injuns and live like a natural man."

He forgot to add catching the clap to that list of manly pursuits . . .

"Can't miss it and still shine as a man."

Young Boone, striking out from home for the very first time, is lucky to have more seasoned guide like Jim Deakins to offer advice, and help navigate the rough terrain that lies ahead. Together they head up river, hoping to make it
Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου
"The days were gone when a man could sleep as long as he wanted and get up lazy and eat some meat and lie down again, glad for warmth and a full stomach and even the ice that put the beaver out of reach. It wasn't quite sunup when Boone awakened, hearing the sharp chirp of a winter bird that spring was giving a voice to.

The others were sleeping, except for Summers who was sitting up and shivering a little. Poordevil was snoring a kind of whistling snore, as if the gap in his teeth gave a special
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a masterpiece, although it was Guthrie's second book, The Way West, that won the Pulitzer Prize. It was written in 1947 but doesn't get read much any more. A shame.

Guthrie was appalled by the Western cowboy books that were being written. He wanted to write a novel that followed some of the first men to live in the harsh, lonely environment of the West. His work was carefully drawn from historical sources, journals, diaries, and numerous trips to the area. The characters in The Big S
Tara Rock
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Truly a western Masterpiece. There was never an inclination to skip over those descriptive portions as they were majestic and so very vivid, bringing as much, if not more, to the story as did the endearing characters. Highly recommend.
RJ from the LBC
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It was good to tell stories sometimes and to hear stories told and to brag and to laugh over nothing and play horse while the whisky worked in you, and to have the good feeling in the back of your head all the time that when you were through talking and betting and drinking and wrestling there would be an Indian girl waiting for you; and, afterwards, you would lie quiet with her and hear the coyotes singing and the stream washing and see the stars down close and feel the warmth of her, and the ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
I want to go to big sky country and I want to do it on horseback and I want to trap beaver and I want to hunt buffalo for food and shelter and I want to trade with Native Americans and I want it to be the 1800's...but that aint gonna happen so I just went ahead and read this book. ...more
robin friedman
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loneliness And Freedom In The Old West

The genre of the American Western has had a long history through dime and pulp novels and magazines, radio, television, and film, and novels and stories. Although much of the genre deals in stereotypes, many Westerns are thoughtful and imaginative, including A.B. Guthrie's 1947 novel, "The Big Sky". Guthrie (1901 -- 1991) wrote a series of six novels on the settlement of the Montana territory of which "The Big Sky" is the first chronologically and in the ord
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those Who Can Tolerate Dark Themes, Dark Characters and Plenty of Violence
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I tried--truly I did. Guthrie is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this has been called his masterpiece. It's not badly written by any means, quite the contrary, but this is one of those books I find way too dark in terms of the characters--and I say that as someone that loved The Color Purple and The Kite Runner. But then, both those novels have very appealing protagonists you can root for, here the major character never seemed anything but despicable, not simply just a scoundrel like in Little Big M ...more
Adrian White
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolute classic of the American West. A flawed hero; an epic quest; a doomed love story. Violence, escape, redemption, survival. Without this book there would there could be no Lonesome Dove and no Blood Meridian - it really is that key a book. And looking back, it is the natural successor to the first half of Huckleberry Finn. No one book will ever capture the whole of what it is to be a part of the North American continent but this key novel comes as close as any that you care to name.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Likely first read this in the early 60s, on my bunk in an USAF barracks. Then, it would have received a 5-star rating. Read most of Guthrie's book thereafter, but after Way West, can't recall connecting with his characters.

(My longest college essay probably springs from Guthrie, a comparative look how Blackfeet and Crow Indians interacted with the trappers.)

Joseph Walker (non-fiction) now most dominates my memories of the Mountain Men.

The Way West

Westering Man: The Life of Joseph Walker
This is one of those books that started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. I really was hooked for the first two parts of The Big Sky. The novel opens with Boone Caudill, a teenager, running away from his abusive pap and trying to make it on his own out into the world. He has a series of adventures and episodes, meeting some foes, some allies, as he tries to find his footing away from home and out under the big sky. It at times almost felt like a Western version of Huckleberry Finn, with ...more
Chris Gager
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this in prep school. One of the better choices for teen-age males. As opposed to, say, "The Return of the Native" or "The Scarlet Letter." Starting tonight ...

No time is wasted as Boone cold-cocks his abusive(what else) father and lights out for the territories. Huck Finn, Blood Meridian, J. F. Cooper's Natty Bumpo.

Moving on up the Missouri on the "Mandan" ... and it's a gripping and violent ride. The west is well-described by the author. If you're going to write a book set in the west, you
Tom Mathews
An excellent story of the life of the American mountain man of the early 19th century. The author grew up in the country around Choteau, Montana, where much of the action takes place and his writing shows it. It was remarkably easy to visualize the country that he is describing.
The one thing I didn't care for was the author's frequent use of the n word in dialogue. Oddly, it was applied to characters without regard to their race and characters even used it when speaking about themselves (Ex: "T
Mike (the Paladin)
This is a "classic" historical fiction of the western expansion. Boone flees his vengeful "Pa" and heads west. Things do not go smoothly.

Along the way he meets Jim and the two of them set out. Along the way we will share with them a realistic look at everything from Keel-boats to foot travel. We'll hunt and we'll fight. We'll meet a range of characters. We'll learn to live as and look at the land as the "Indians" do.

Yes the native Americans are called Indians here. I want to include in this revi
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: western
There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. I liked the beginning with Boone dealing with his Pap and running away from home and his trouble with the law. After that, though, it was hit or miss for me. Until the ending, which just sucked.

Young Boone decides he's not gonna let Pap hit him anymore, so he steals his old man's rifle, takes a cooked chicken his mom gave him, and sets out for the American West. The rifle is stolen by a man he shares his camp with and later Boone finds the man and
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
I have not read much fiction set in the old American West. In fact I believe the only other book set in that place and time that I have read is McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. But as I plan to read Guthrie's Pulitzer winning book The Way West soon, I decided to read this one first. I am glad that I did. Although I loved McMurtry's book more I did enjoy this one as well. It felt very real to me. It transported me to the era and I believed everything I read. However, I didn't connect with Boone nearly a ...more
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before Lonesome Dove and All the Pretty Horses, A. B. Guthrie's The Big Sky was the go-to novel of the American West. Those who want a gritty and realistic portrayal of the characters and environment that made up the frontier at that time need look no further. Sink your teeth into The Big Sky and at the end when you hunger for more, pick up book two, The Way West, which won Guthrie the Pulitzer Prize. ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps the best western that I've ever read. From the wonderfully flawed protagonist to the sprawling landscapes and an incredible story, "The Big Sky" is without a doubt one of the great forgotten novels. ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is certainly not a book for a modern audience. It was written in the mid-1940s and utilizes the N-word on nearly every page! It surprised me the author found the word so necessary when only a few of the characters were black. It is a very unique telling of mountain men and their interaction with Indian Tribes during the 1830s and 1840s. The language is difficult to follow at times. Both the dialogue and the narrations follow a rustic homespun jargon. The plot and flow of the story often get ...more
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This story appeals to my sense of adventure, my love of open country and my affection for a time and people now gone.

The opening is a bit harsh for some readers and the end left me troubled for a time. I am often visited by the beautiful imagery of this book and its many lessons.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: early-america
Amazing, incredible, beautiful book. Guthrie's images are stunning, his characters authentic and absorbing.... the book just incredibly powerful. One of the greatest books I have ever read! ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x08-august-2017
I liked this story much more than I liked The Way West. ...more
This is a well-written tale of the life of a mountain man named Boone Caudill. Fleeing his drunken, abusive father in Kentucky at the age of 17, he makes his way to the Missouri River in search of his uncle. Along the way he meets some good guys and some bad guys, and transforms from a naive kid to a powerful frontiersman, not just able to live off the land but preferring it to cities full of people. The one constant in his life is his love of the outdoors.

There's an improbable love story here,
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
The Big Sky centers around Boone Caudill, a young man from Kentucky, escaping the abuse of his father. He not only seeks the life of the frontier, he seeks to define himself. We follow his adventure to St. Louis, and further into the wild frontier, up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers into the heart of present day Montana. Its a land of Indians, Buffler (Buffalo) and beavers. Along the way, we meet among others, Jim, Dick Summers, Deakins, Jourdannais and the young Indian Squaw, Teal Eye.

Jay Gertzman
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Guthrie wrote five novels about the Mountains Men of the earlier and mid-19th century. Dick Somers is a leading guide and explorer of the land west of the Missouri before the genocide of Manifest Destiny. His knowledge, helpfulness, and idealism are a beautiful thing. He has taken an Indian wife, and has a child by her. One of the questions Guthrie asks is -- is Somers' rough-edged but finely attuned gentleness realistic? what is his fate? you need to read Fair Land to find out--right to the end ...more
I found this book at a "dump store" in Canada. I never expected a Western novel to blow me away with exquisite colloquial prose and intelligent monologue discourse on what it is to be under a free sky, to be old, or to be doubting God. I've been out West in the Yellowstone/Teton area where some of this novel is set, and the landscape descriptions brought me back and reminded me of the earth that rolls on forever as far as the eye can see. The history comes alive and presents a solid perspective ...more
Steve O'Keefe
This book appeals so much to my (entirely unrealistic) ideas of how much I would have enjoyed pioneer life and exploring the American frontier. Nearly the entire novel takes place outside in the wide open spaces of the uninhabited (by white folks, anyways) territories in what would eventually become the western United States. The "mountain men" the story follows are simple in both their lifestyle and desires. They live amongst nothing but nature's majesty for the majority of the year, allowing t ...more
This was ok and thus given a 2 star rating. The use of the N-word and GD was used so heavy throughout the book that it took away from the story. I understand that this was written awhile back, but the use of these two/three words tainted the entire story. I struggled with the main character and how dark his was. Looking back after listening to all 11 discs in this audio book I really do not like the main character and I think I stuck with the entire story hoping that he would change. The strengt ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie - 3 stars 2 19 May 06, 2016 02:21PM  

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Alfred Bertram Guthrie, Jr. was an American novelist, screenwriter, historian, and literary historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction during 1950 for his novel The Way West.

After working 22 years as a news reporter and editor for the Lexington Leader, Guthrie wrote his first novel.

Ηe was able to quit his reporting job after the publication of the novels The Big Sky and The Way West (1950

Other books in the series

The Big Sky (3 books)
  • The Way West (The Big Sky, #2)
  • Fair Land, Fair Land (The Big Sky, #2)

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