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Legends of the Fall

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  9,710 ratings  ·  587 reviews
'Legends of the Fall, an epic tale of three brothers and their lives of passion, madness, exploration and danger at the beginning of the Great War, confirms Jim Harrison's reputation as one of the finest American writers of his generation. This magnificent trilogy also contains two other superb short novels. In Revenge, love causes the course of a man's life to be savagely ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published April 15th 1980 by Delta (first published 1979)
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Melissa Pet, his daughter, tombstone at the end showed she was born in 1884. Assuming Stab was 20 when she was born, he would have been born in 1864...but giv…morePet, his daughter, tombstone at the end showed she was born in 1884. Assuming Stab was 20 when she was born, he would have been born in 1864...but given how young people married then he might have been 16 or 17 when she was born. Sticking with the 20 estimate, if he was born in 1864 then he was 99 when Tristen died in 1963 which is plausible and, in his last scene, Stab looked pretty old and grizzled. He was telling his story as an oral tale for posterity so maybe its telling was his last act before dying shortly after Tristan. What I find unbelievable is that the main action takes place in only 7 years yet they act like Tristan was gone for ages when he jilts Susannah. Isabel 2 was 13 when Susannah arrives and 20 when Tristan returns and she marries him. The woman who would wait forever couldn't make it 2 or 3 years lol. (less)

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Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Paradise Lost and Found and Lost Again

People, but mostly men, are fairly hapless creatures who engage themselves in situations that they don’t have a clue about - love, marriage and war are favourites. These themes are perennial, epic, even biblical. But it’s all been written about before. Not that many notice the repitition. Here are three stories of classic haplessness and its consequences, written in a suitably hapless manner - with enough machismo, firearms, hunting dogs, and quails, lots of
Feb 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly unlike the movie – but no better. The movie might be better. (The last time I saw it I was high and I was very entertained imagining digressive counter-films about Col. Ludlow’s embittered back story and virginal Samuel’s “poetic” friendships with other Cambridge aesthetes and the homosexual or simply compensatory motivation of his avidity to enlist. And Anthony Hopkins looks badass in a buffalo robe.) For one, the movie has a better structure. Hollywood's usually harmful compression and ...more
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
My copy is a post-movie paperback, complete with Brad Pitt's young mug looming over a Montana skyline, and gives no clue, even on the jacket copy, that this is actually a collection of three unrelated novellas. I like the form: these feel almost epic in scope, just not in length.

I love Harrison's writing, rather solemn, almost elegiac. His imagery is poetic but unsentimental, which makes sense, since he's also published numerous volumes of poetry. All three stories are told in the third person,
“He looked around the clearing in recognition that he was lost but didn’t mind because he knew he had never been found.”
― Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall

There are actually several stories included in here, not just Legends. I did read them all and though I liked Legends I still prefer Revenge which was also a film and which starred Kevin Costner and Madeline Stowe.

To be honest it took me awhile to get into these stories. We are told many things, not shown and what I mean by that is there is mu
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
I've heard positive things about Harrison for years, but much as I wanted to enjoy this trio of novellas I found myself disappointed. While he is capable of turning a beautiful, poetic sentence now and again, Harrison's stories seem obsessed with summarizing instead of actually narrating. He tells you everything everyone is doing and everything they ever have done, ad infinitum. There is no sense of immediacy here, of the present moment unfolding in any significant or meaningful way. He tells yo ...more
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revenge- *** Kind of a typical macho revenge tale. Didn't particularly care for it, but I did enjoy the Diller character and I thought the ending was quite powerful. Good but not great.

The Man Who Gave Up His Name-**** This is an excellent tale of a typical midlife crisis. Nordstrom's confused indifference is an interesting viewpoint for such a circumstance. This was strong four to five star territory until the ending, when an unnecessary violent conflict pops up. Detracts from the internal powe
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit, jim-harrison
These three novellas are certainly cinematic. Which might explain the Legends of the Fall movie, something I've managed to miss to this point. Suffice it to say, there are Mexican warlords, drug smugglers, bootleggers, and the general unhinged. Each of the three stories ends with a climatic scene where the protagonist will murder, be murdered or just shake hands. I don't care. Jim Harrison's my guy.

Revenge: 4/5
Perhaps this can be summarized in one sentence: The morning before Mauro and his daugh
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The book, thankfully, is way better than the movie. Harrison's underrated as a stylist. While he does sort of fit the Michigan writer cliche of an epicurean, hard-drinking Northman, he also writes cogently on Rilke, Cioran, obscure Russian poets like Yesenin, and is equally adept at poetry, formal prose, and, say, restaurant reviews. How many writers can tell you how to make a great stock out of leftover bits of wild game, advise you on a good recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and write ...more
Apr 17, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
The movie was passionate, enthralling, and unforgetable. The book, a 100 page short story tucked between the covers with other equally poorly written short stories, is boring, confusing, and disappointing. How anyone ever wrote a screenplay as good as the movie from this short story is beyond me. That person deserves a medal of some sort.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: montana-setting
This is a collection of 3 short stories/novellas. Legends of the Fall is by far a 5 star read. The other two are 3.5-4 star reads. Legends of the Fall is what drew me to this read. If you have seen the movie, all the players are there, but the plot is arranged a little differently. 5 stars to the movie and 5 stars to the short story knowing each are a little different from each other.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
This book had three short stories in it. The title story was the third in the collection and was really quite different from the movie. It wasn't a particularly compelling story unless you want to look at it as only being about Tristan's character. And madness. There were several mad people in that one.

The second story, The Man who Gave Up His Name, was my least favorite as the character was quite nauseating. And I never understood the significance of the title.

The first story was the gem of thi
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are 3 very good novellas from Harrison.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it liked it
I decided to read this after Kate and Conrad had a bit of a disagreement over Harrison a few weeks back. I realized I'd never read anything by him, so I picked up this collection of three novellas (unfortunately graced with Brad Pitt and the rest of the movie cast).

At first I disliked it, but then I realized that was because I had expected something else -- I was expecting something more along the lines of McCarthy, and Harrison lacks all the southern gothic Faulknerian pretensions that I love i
Travis Fortney
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
More Montana fiction, which is quickly becoming my favorite little sub-genre. I want to read it all.

I love the movie starring Brad Pitt based on the first novella in this book. I've thought about why I love that movie. I think it's the idea that a man can win a woman's heart without talking to her, instead simply going out to the pasture and breaking a wild horse while she's watching, letting the horse brutalize you a bit in the process. Of course it doesn't hurt to look like Brad Pitt. I also
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Certain stories stay with you long after you've read the book. LENGENDS OF THE FALL is a perfect example. (And not because my wife has a crush on Brad Pitt, I'm giving all the credit to Jim Harrison.)

I read this book almost five years ago and I can still recall almost every moment of the story. The feelings of the vast wilderness, both geographically and spiritually, that the characters have to roam about makes me suffer both claustrophobia and agoraphobia simultaneously.

A plot synopsis is poi
Barnabas Piper
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love His Writing style

Harrison has such a sharp, incisive, minimal style. He uses metaphor as well as anyone I've read. And, while he has a dark view of humanity it rings true in many ways. Loved this book.
Sarah Beaudette
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Three novellas from one of the best poets of our time. I liked the first, skipped the second, loved Legends of the Fall, and was a bit perturbed by the simplistic portrayals of women (which were not, I think, intentional or self-conscious on Harrison's part).

"Revenge" reads like an early Hemingway. Starkly drawn, not quite nihilistic story about a man who falls in love with a cartel head's wife, is beat to within an inch of his life, then launches a dual mission of revenge/recovery of his lover.
Andy Weston
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
In just 87 pages Jim Harrison tells a story of two generations of the Montana Ludlow family spanning 50 years.
It’s starting point is three young brothers riding from Choteau, Montana to Calgary to enlist in 1914. Subsequently there are tragedies, vendetta and insanity, enough for a novel 10 times its size, yet this works because the events which may seem contrived in a longer version are incredibly, more plausible in condensed form.

There are two other novellas included with the book, both read
Nov 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Like Hemingway, only worse...

My interest in Jim Harrison was piqued when I read about him in an NPR article immediately following his death. Now I wish I had never read that article because boy was this a waste of time. Allow me to summarize these three novellas as best as I can:


A white guy gets mixed in with some drug cartels down in Mexico. He meets the wife of the crime boss and has sex with her. They’re madly in love but the crime boss finds out. He isn’t mad, he’s just sad. Alright
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I think what's really remarkable about Harrison, which, this is only the second collection of three novellas of his that I've read, but each of his pieces are so rich, and but also so varied from one another. The first in this concerns a bloody story of revenge on the Mexico/U.S. border, the second concerns a middleaged executive somewhere near New York, and the third is set in Montana at the time of and after the first world war. And that third novella, Legends of the Fall, is insane. Eighty-fi ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having seen and enjoyed the movie many years ago, I figured this would be a good read since it had so many elements that appealed to me: the American west, Native American culture and history, war, family, tragedy, personal and interpersonal conflicts, love triangles, travel, adventure, etc. After buying the book I realized that Legends of the Fall is just one of three in this collection of novellas. For now, I only read the title story. I will look forward to reading the other two later.

The wri
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I've had this book for such a long time and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. This book contains 3 unrelated novellas (longer than short stories). I absolutely loved the first one, Revenge. I now want to track down the movie and watch it. This story pulled me in and I felt I was hanging on every word. I also loved the writing. Jim Harrison has such a way with words. He also allows the reader to discover things without the telling and explaining. I loved that.

The second story I didn't
Jul 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
It's rare you go in with high expectations and end up turning the book over, again and again, to check if you really are reading the book you set out to do. Even more so when the blurb quotes NYT to say it "may well be the best set of novellas to appear in this country during the last quarter century"

In truth, it is a terrible collection, full of clichés and, rather too frequently, more than a whiff of Mary Sue-like wish fulfilment. The first novella is the most banal revenge-story, the second j
Codi Stahl
I probably wouldn't have read this had I not enjoyed the movie. This book is broken up into 3 novellas. These dramatic stories are full of revenge, love, hate and self discovery. ...more
Mark Noble
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read Jim Harrison's, Legends of the Fall, his most famous work but one that I had not read yet. The book was first published in 1978 and is a collection of three novellas. The first is titled Revenge. It is a brutal story, written in Harrison’s lean and crisp style that highlights the stark emotions that drive this story. I will not give away any of the plot because it is such a good story. Harrison ramps it up quickly as ex fighter pilot Cochran and wealthy Mexican businessman Tibe ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
If there's any common thread that possibly pulls these three novellas together (REVENGE, THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS NAME, LEGENDS OF THE FALL), I think it's a testing of one's manhood and then a subsequent sense of loss.
In REVENGE, it involves a man who is involved in a passionate affair with another man's life, foreign territory you might say as the story take place in a violent and primitive Mexico that reminded me of some of Cormac McCarthy's bleak landscape.It's a double revenge story. The hus
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book contains three novellas, the last one being the title story. Jim Harrison has been one of my favorite authors for years. He lives in and writes about Michigan in his stories and poetry, capturing the untamed nature of parts of that land. The Legends of the Fall was made into a pretty powerful movie a few years ago, but the story itself is even more powerful. However, the other two stories, "Revenge," and "The Man Who Gave up His Name," are also quite intense. In fact, I couldn't "Reven ...more
Pep Bonet
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book to read! Its narrative is completely different of anything usual, the characters are lovely, walking the thin line between law and nature, the stories evolve in peculiar ways, the sentences are beautiful and the natural spaces (especially in the first and third novellas) are just mind-blowing. A real pleasure to read.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s, fiction, hf-usa
One of the stories in Legends lingered long, more in emotional than narrative ... Legends generated an interest in Harrison that was never again matched. Read fewer and fewer pages when starting his newer books. Mexico setting ...
Kirsten Feldman
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the American West, not "cowboys and Indians," not shoot-'em-up shenanigans, but the west that is bleak, rugged, determined, loyal, and most all, true. Tristan broke my heart. ...more
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants

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“His own life suddenly seemed repellently formal. Whom did he know or what did he know and whom did he love? Sitting on the stump under the burden of his father's death and even the mortality inherent in the dying, wildly colored canopy of leaves, he somehow understood that life was only what one did every day.... Nothing was like anything else, including himself, and everything was changing all of the time. He knew he couldn't perceive the change because he was changing too, along with everything else.

(from the novella, The Man Who Gave Up His Name)
“If you added it up, without her there was nothing--but with her even the simplest of gestures of walking a bird dog in the desert, or selecting the ingredients for a meal for two rather than one took on an ineffable charm.

(from the novella, Revenge)”
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