Lonesome Dove: A Novel Info

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The Pulitzer Prize­–winning American classic of
the American West that follows two aging Texas Rangers embarking on one
last adventure. An epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the
grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of
America.


Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome
Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores
and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written,
always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep,
dream, and remember.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Lonesome Dove: A Novel:

5

Sep 04, 2017

Update: Finally able to talk about the book.



This book touched my heart, made me laugh so many times, made me mad and made me cry.

There are a lot of books I would never have read if it wasn't for my Goodreads friends, but the two most memorable and that have made it to my favorites list are:

The Conte Of Monte Cristo and Lonesome Dove

I loved so many characters in this book and I feel like I have been on that journey with them. I kept wishing they would have stayed in Texas or at least stopped Update: Finally able to talk about the book.



This book touched my heart, made me laugh so many times, made me mad and made me cry.

There are a lot of books I would never have read if it wasn't for my Goodreads friends, but the two most memorable and that have made it to my favorites list are:

The Conte Of Monte Cristo and Lonesome Dove

I loved so many characters in this book and I feel like I have been on that journey with them. I kept wishing they would have stayed in Texas or at least stopped in Nebraska after so much they went through. And my emotions are still raw as I cry. Because people die and when you love characters you don't want that but that is life for real, life in books and life in movies and tv.

I will write a more detailed review after I have had some time away from what I just read. I'm going to have to watch some shows, read more books and come back to talk about these people I grew to love.

To be continued. . .

Mel ❤️

Like I have said, this book really got to me. I fell in love with so many of the characters. I loved Augustus and he made me laugh through this whole book. I have to say he was my favorite character. I loved Call too but Gus was the one.

I loved Deets and he also has a special place in my heart. I loved how he was with them for 30 something years. He was a great man and a great tracker.

Roscoe is another character who cracked me up. He was so innocent and funny. I loved the relationship between him and the little girl, Janey.

I didn't really care for Jake at all. If they never listened to him none of the bad things would have happened. I felt bad for him for a minute when he ended up with the Suggs boys and what happened to him in that situation.

I felt bad for Lorena and all that happened to her. I loved the relationship between her and Gus.

I loved Newt (who could not love Newt). I really wish he could have gotten better closure at the end of the book.

I loved Pea Eye, the Irishmen, the pigs, the horses, Bolivar, Po, Clara, July, Joe, Wilbarger and I'm sure I have left some out.

I just know that if you have been putting off reading this book, don't, go ahead and get to it. I think 9 times out of 10, you won't regret it!

Mel ♥ ...more
5

Jul 26, 2007

I was only willing to read this book because a friend told me I had to. When I was thirty pages into it and complaining to him about being unable to handle any more discussion about horses and beans, he made me a bet: If I got to page 101 (out of 900, mind you) and I still didn't enjoy it, he'd take me out to dinner at any restaurant I wanted in New York City. If at page 101 I had warmed up to it, I had to finish. I don't think I made it past the 60th page before I knew I had "lost" the bet.

The I was only willing to read this book because a friend told me I had to. When I was thirty pages into it and complaining to him about being unable to handle any more discussion about horses and beans, he made me a bet: If I got to page 101 (out of 900, mind you) and I still didn't enjoy it, he'd take me out to dinner at any restaurant I wanted in New York City. If at page 101 I had warmed up to it, I had to finish. I don't think I made it past the 60th page before I knew I had "lost" the bet.

The characters in this story are more real than in any other book I've read. I came to absolutely love characters I was so thoroughly annoyed with earlier in the book. I feel that the depth of the characters allowed me to do something I can rarely do with the real people I encounter on a daily basis in my life -- to truly know each and every one of them so fully and so deeply so as to be able to wholly sympathize with them and genuinely understand the motivations behind their actions, no matter how much I might disapprove.

I was so engrossed in this book that I had no problem regularly making a fool of myself in public places - on the subway, in coffee shops - gasping, weeping, and shouting "Nuh-uh!"

My only criticism of the book is the way in which it plays into classic Western stereotypes, particularly its portrayal of nearly every Native American character as a brutal savage. Except for one character's brief mention of "well, they didn't invite us on this land," the issues surrounding white settlers effectively stealing the land of another people is not addressed. It's something to try to constantly keep in mind for sure, but not something to keep you from reading this fantastic book.
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5

Jun 08, 2017

Larry McMurtry is considered one of America's master story tellers. His novels include Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show, as well as the screenplay to Brokeback Mountain, which later became award winning films. A revered author in Texas, he was invited by former First Lady Laura Bush to be a special guest speaker at the first annual Texas Book Festival. It seems fitting that I began his definitive work, Pulitzer winning Lonesome Dove, on his birthday, June 3. A story of Texas Rangers Larry McMurtry is considered one of America's master story tellers. His novels include Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show, as well as the screenplay to Brokeback Mountain, which later became award winning films. A revered author in Texas, he was invited by former First Lady Laura Bush to be a special guest speaker at the first annual Texas Book Festival. It seems fitting that I began his definitive work, Pulitzer winning Lonesome Dove, on his birthday, June 3. A story of Texas Rangers and winning the western frontier, which later encouraged McMurtry to create a tetralogy, Lonesome Dove is considered the foremost work of American western fiction.

Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Woodrow F. Call ride as Texas Rangers for nearly thirty years, keeping the new state safe from Indians, Mexicans, and ruffians following the completion of the Civil War. By the time of the volume's opening, however, Mexicans decided to stay on their side of the Rio Grande and most Indians had cleared out of south Texas, leaving the area to law abiding citizens. Even though the two never tired completely of rangering, they founded the Hat Creek Outfit, a stables outside of Lonesome Dove, a settlement close to the Mexican border. It is here that McCrae and Call got their team of Rangers back together for one final adventure before they ride off into the sunset.

Creating a large cast of characters and multiple storylines that eventually meet up, McMurtry creates a western novel that is more than the story of cowboys and Indians. Former ranger Jake Spoon, a good guy turned outlaw, convinced Call to move thousands of cattle and start the first ranch north of the Milk River in Montana. At the time unexplored territory, Call is up for the challenge and assembles a team of cowboys to make the journey north. The group, full of colorful personalities, got more than they bargained for on the trip. Most thought it was to be a journey, get paid, and then return home to Lonesome Dove. They did not sign up for river crossings, sandstorms, and skirmishes with Indians and grizzly bears. Yet, Call desires to conquer virgin territory and make a name for himself as one of the pioneers of the Montana land grab.

McCrae signs up for the journey as a last hurrah with his lifelong friend. Yet even he gets more than he asked for on the trip. A carefree persona happy to sit back with a glass of whiskey and a deck of cards, McCrae would rather be outside a saloon in Lonesome Dove than on a two thousand mile journey north. Yet, the thought of seeing the love of his life Clara Allen at the midway point of the trek, spurs McCrae to join up. Along the way, he saves a whore named Lorena from a vile Indian named Blue Duck and becomes her guardian, only to find himself when he meets with Clara once and for all. This story line tugged on my emotions the most as McMurtry weaves multiple characters' stories together to form a nexus at Clara's ranch. It is here that both the cowboys and their loves must make key decisions that are vital to the duration of the novel.

McMurtry makes Lonesome Dove more than just a story of cowboys by informing his readers of key events that have taken place to change the course of the American west. He touches on the plight of the Indians who in the 1870s are still fighting off the cavalry and cowboys for control of the great land grab. The army, settlers, and Indians all think that the land belongs to them, setting the stage for epic battle scenes, none as brutal as those involving Blue Duck. He also has the cowboys in their dialogue describe how if they are not careful all of the buffalo will be gone soon, so the men enjoy watching and running with the great creatures while they are still able. McMurtry also touches on the place of women in society as he describes in detail the characters of Lorena, Clara, and a wandering soul named Elmira. All three are limited in choices between marriage and whoring, and in the end Clara desires a brighter future for both Lorena and her two daughters.

While I enjoyed the multiple story lines, the place of women, the character studies, and history, the journey from Texas to Montana is what kept me reading this volume. At 750 pages in length, the novel is fast reading as I desired to see the resolution of this complex story that McMurtry has created. Now that I have completed and left behind Lonesome Dove, I am ready to return again as the writing was captivating and held my attention throughout. As I attempt to read through the Pulitzers, I view Lonesome Dove as one of the best. I hope to return to the tetralogy at some point, but I would like to savor this 5 star read for awhile first. ...more
5

Feb 02, 2008


The account of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. This is a very long novel which is nevertheless always compelling. It contains memorable characters whose adventures are narrated in a deceptively straightforward style.

What impresses me most about this book is that the fates of the characters are neither cornily predictable nor deliberately surprising. The book's great length allows life to happen to them as it happens to all of us. We have the leisure to observe them carefully, and we are
The account of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. This is a very long novel which is nevertheless always compelling. It contains memorable characters whose adventures are narrated in a deceptively straightforward style.

What impresses me most about this book is that the fates of the characters are neither cornily predictable nor deliberately surprising. The book's great length allows life to happen to them as it happens to all of us. We have the leisure to observe them carefully, and we are glad that we have come along for the "drive." ...more
5

Feb 08, 2015

Are you looking for the most Western book ever? If so, Lonesome Dove better be in your search!

This was a fantastic epic journey! I am glad I took this one slowly over the course of several months so that I could savor it. You may look at this and say, Matthew, you took exactly four months to read an 858 page novel? That must have been a chore! But, it was not. Every chapter was a story in itself, every page added to the characters, atmosphere, drama, etc. No filler. No boring parts. Everything Are you looking for the most Western book ever? If so, Lonesome Dove better be in your search!

This was a fantastic epic journey! I am glad I took this one slowly over the course of several months so that I could savor it. You may look at this and say, “Matthew, you took exactly four months to read an 858 page novel? That must have been a chore!” But, it was not. Every chapter was a story in itself, every page added to the characters, atmosphere, drama, etc. No filler. No boring parts. Everything in Lonesome Dove is there for a reason and helps to make this one of the best Westerns ever.

The Story – The American West was not clean. The American West was not forgiving. This book does not pull any punches when it comes to setting the mood for what life was really like as the American West was settled. Cowboys, bandits, whore houses, fur trappers, buffalo hunters, Native Americans, etc. – all there and not romanticized. I think it did a great job of touching on sensitive topics (women’s role in the old West, Native American treatment, etc.) and keeping it real without making the reader uncomfortable. Those things did happen, so when telling stories about them, it is easy to do it wrong and make a book uncomfortable to read. I did not feel that was the case here even when things were at their most shocking in this story.

The Characters – So many wonderful and interesting characters! I love that McMurtry took the time to flesh all of them out and make sure that even some of the minor characters have more heart and soul than some of the main characters in other books. And, part of what is great about this is how real the characters are; they are not written so we think all the good guys are perfect or all the bad guys are bad. You soon realize that anything is possible for any character and nothing feels forced to make a point. The movement of all the lives together is very organic. Needless to say, a very satisfying character study.

The Atmosphere – You want to feel like you are in the Old West. Read this book. Period!

Summary – I am sure by now you can tell this book blew me away. I would highly recommend it, but it may not be for everyone. If you are not a fan of Epics, it is probably not for you. If you have a hard time with real, raw, and often not pretty scenes in books, this also may not be for you (not quite as bad as Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, but still pretty intense!). If you are fans of books like Gone with the Wind by Mitchell or Centennial by Michener and you have not read this book, you must! You really, really, really must read this book! ...more
5

Feb 15, 2008

This is one of my favoritest books ever. In fact, put a gun to my head and tell me chose just one, and itd be better than even money that Lonesome Dove would be what Id name.

It has the bonus of not only being an incredible book but also having an excellent companion piece in the television mini-series based on it that is one of the great all-time fusions of print and film. I cant read this without hearing the voices of Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper, Danny Glover, This is one of my favoritest books ever. In fact, put a gun to my head and tell me chose just one, and it’d be better than even money that Lonesome Dove would be what I’d name.

It has the bonus of not only being an incredible book but also having an excellent companion piece in the television mini-series based on it that is one of the great all-time fusions of print and film. I can’t read this without hearing the voices of Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper, Danny Glover, Diane Lane and all the rest in my head.* So every couple of years, I do a rereading of the book and then I break out the DVD of the miniseries and I immerse myself in the perfection that is this story.

* I didn’t know this until I was looking up some stuff on the net for this review, but Lonesome Dove was virtually snubbed at the Emmy Awards. War & Remembrance beat it out for best mini-series. It only managed to take best director and a few other technical prizes. Worse yet, none of the actors nominated won. It’s a good thing I never got into any bar wagers about this, or I would have bet my house that Robert Duvall won best actor for a mini-series , and when I lost that, I would have bet my car that it had to be Tommy Lee Jones. Nope. Anjelica Huston and Diane Lane and Danny Glover all lost, too.

Hey, Emmy voters of 1990! WTF??

Why do I say the story is perfect? Start with the characters. Augustus McRae and Woodrow Call are two retired Texas Rangers who run a rinky-dink cattle company in a speck of a town called Lonesome Dove on the Texas/Mexico border. Gus and Call couldn’t be more unlikely friends. Call is a dour workaholic who has spent his life trying to be the perfect leader of men while Gus is a good-natured and lazy soul who likes to drink whiskey, play cards and spend time with Lonesome Dove’s beautiful but distant whore, Lorena Wood. Gus also delights in giving Call grief about young Newt, a boy they took in after the death of his mother. Newt’s mom was a whore that Call had visited regularly for a short time, and he may be the boy’s father but refuses to acknowledge it.

Their dull routine is broken when their old friend and fellow ex-Ranger Jake Spoon shows up. Jake, who is another candidate to be Newt's dad, is looking for a hiding place after accidentally shooting a man in Arkansas, and he fears that the sheriff, July Johnson, will be after him. Jake’s idle remark about having been to Montana and that it’s a cattleman’s paradise for the first men to risk the hostile Indians starts a fever in Call. He wants to be the first to drive a herd to the Montana territory and start a ranch there.

Call soon has started hiring men and stealing Mexican cattle for the drive. Gus says that Call is going to get them all killed just to have another adventure in a wild frontier, but he goes along to see his old sweetheart Clara who is living in Nebraska. Jake has taken up with Lorena and decides to travel along with the herd, much to Gus’s amusement and Call’s aggravation. The large cast of characters carry their hopes, fears and limitations with them out onto the vast plains of the American Midwest, and the drive turns out to be dangerous in ways they couldn’t even imagine.

This book has everything that anyone could want in a story. It’s epic in scale, but relatable through it’s shifting point of view through a variety of vivid characters. There’s intense western action and heart breaking love stories. It’s incredibly profound and amazingly simple. It’s hilarious at times but could reduce the toughest man in the world to tears at some points. And all of this is set during those last moments when America was still half-wild and anyone with the gumption to do so could throw together a herd of cattle and go out into the wilderness to make history or lose their scalp. ...more
5

Feb 14, 2020

This was such a surprisingly wonderful read, well beyond the traditional stereotypes of westerns with realistic, lovable (and hateful) characters and an incredible scenario. I am not sure how to present my review of this 1000 page masterpiece. Perhaps we start with the town of Lonesome Dove itself.

It is a small settlement next to the Mexican border. There is the Hat Creek crew with their horses (a collection of which is a remuda) and cattle. In charge of the crew are Captain Woodrow Call and This was such a surprisingly wonderful read, well beyond the traditional stereotypes of westerns with realistic, lovable (and hateful) characters and an incredible scenario. I am not sure how to present my review of this 1000 page masterpiece. Perhaps we start with the town of Lonesome Dove itself.

It is a small settlement next to the Mexican border. There is the Hat Creek crew with their horses (a collection of which is a remuda) and cattle. In charge of the crew are Captain Woodrow Call and Captain Augustus 'Gus' McCrae who are our two primary protagonists. They are longtime friends and former Texas Rangers one whose squad was also the somewhat dim hand Pea Eye Parker and the Mexican cook Bolivar. There is a younger man Newt that was adopted by the crew after his mother, a local prostitute named Maggie passed away (I believe her story is told in Comanche Moon.) There are a few other ranches around and the downtown is just a handful of shops and the local saloon, the Dry Bean which is also the local whorehouse both owned and run by Frenchman Xavier Wanz. In the whorehouse, Lorena Wood is a rather silent prostitute living at the Dry Bean with a sad, long backstory that landed her in Lonesome Dove. Augustus is one of her kinder and more generous customers. Lippy, who has a droopy lip and a hole in his stomach, plays the "pian-er" and serves as comic relief in the bar.

Into this picture, Dishwater Boggett, a local cowhand, rides in and falls head over heels with Lorena, who barely notices his existence. But the entire plot is set into inexorable motion with the arrival of former Ranger and colleage of Call and Gus, Jake Spoon - gambler, lady's man, and alcoholic. Naturally, Lorena immediately falls head over heels in love with him, giving up on the "sporting life." Before this however, he goes to the ranch and after some reminiscing, plants the idea of a cattle drive up into unsettled Montana. The idea being to "open" and "settle" the land there with a few thousand head of cattle (these will be stolen from Mexico by the crew.) This idea, initially panned by Gus, is, for somewhat inexplicable reasons at first, picked up by Call and becomes an obsession. He decides to make the drive and thus the story begins in earnest.

Since the rest of the book is the trek from Texas to Montana, we need to add to this picture a few other important characters:
- July Johnson - a sheriff in Fort Smith, Arkansas whose brother was mistakenly killed by Jake Spoon, thus explaining his presence, somewhat clandestine, in Texas. He is married to Elmira (who is unbeknownst to him a former prostitute still in love with her last pimp, Dee Boot). He has a deputee Roscoe Brown and a son named Joe. At the beginning of Part 2 (Part 1 being dedicated to the organization and start of the cattle drive), July and Joe set out to capture Jake Spoon and bring him to justice and Roscoe is tasked with "watching" Elmira who takes off on a whiskey boat to find her beau, Dee.
- Clara Allen - this is Gus' first true love who we meet at the beginning of Part 3. She has two daughers, Sally and Betsey and a dying husband, Bill. She is strong-willed, quick-tongued and excellent with horses.
- Blue Duck - When Gus and Call "settled" Texas, they wiped out the most violent Indian criminals as well as Mexican bandits, they missed one. The evil Blue Duck is one of literatures most repulsive and inherently evil bad guys on the level of Anton Chiggah in No Country for Old Men or Heath Ledger's Joker in the film The Dark Knight. He kills and rapes with no remorse and is a formidable antagonist for Gus and his capture of Lorena is a key pivot in the plot.

The thing that strikes the reader is how the book avoids stereotypes. Despite having played a major role in destroying the place of Indians in the West and reducing the survivors to either crime or starvation (as we see repeatedly in the book), Gus realizes this and questions which side was truly in their rights, who really belonged on the land and sees the mechanics of how the scheme worked.
Here is Gus about settling the West: "Why, women and children and settlers are just cannon fodder for lawyers and bankers," Augustus said. "They're part of the scheme. After the Indians wipe out enough of them, you get your public outcry, and we go chouse the Indians out of the way. If they keep coming back then the Army takes over and chouses them worse. Finally the Army will manage the whip 'em down to where they can be squeezed onto some reservation, so the lawyers and bankers can come in and get civilisation started. Every bank in Texas ought to pay us a commission for the work we done. If we hadn't done it, all the bankers would still be back in Georgia, living on poke salad and turnip greens. (p. 83)

At another point during a conversation with Call, Gus says: "Does it ever occur to you that everything we done was probably a mistake? Just look at it from a nature standpoint. If you've got enough snakes around the place, you won't be overrun with rats and varmints. The way I see it, the Indians and the bandits have the same job to do. Let them be and you won't constantly be having to ride around these dern settlements. (p. 319) And later, "The thing is, if I'm going to be treated like an Indian, I might as well act like one. I think we spent our best years fighting on the wrong side." (p. 327)

Dish, hopelessly in love with and devoted to Lorena, lost all sense of what life was about. He even lost the sense that he was a cowboy, the strongest sense he had to work with. He was just a fellow with a glass in his hand, who life had suddenly turned to mud. (p. 98)

After stealing cattle and horses from Mexico from a former rival that had died unbeknownst to the company, they drive north. During the drive, they are hit by misfortunes of Biblical proportions: one is killed after stepping in a nest of snakes in a river, another having been struck by lightning, the crew is hit with sandstorms, locust storms, and hail storms. At one point, the surly Bolivar quits the company and they hire Po Campo later on to replace him. This is a good moment to point out the many moments of humor in the book - the rivalry between Gus and Po as the team's primary sources of entertainment was a great on-going joke. Po Campo is a Mexican character who walks beside the wagon all the way north being the closest to nature of all of them.

In the narrative, the drive continues, the destinies of Roscoe and Joe and Elmira play out against a background of the drive making it across to Montana with wonderful descriptions the great west, technical explanations of the various aspects of cattle drives, and of course just great storytelling.

I hope this review encouraged you to pick up and read this classic if you never had, or to reread it if you have. I was moved by the depth of the characters, the refusal of McMurtry to water down the violence or succumb to empty stereotypes or a Hollywood ending. While being faithful to aspects of the classic western, McMurtry surpassed the genre to create a real masterpiece of American literature that is enduring and beautiful.

I am watching the 1989 TV series again with my kids 10 and 13) and we all nearly cried at the end of the first episode. Duvall is extraordinary as Gus, Tommy Lee Jones is great at Call...the breaking in of Hell Bitch was so well-shot. Just wish we had seen the rancher that Gus had that hilarious exchange about renting pigs with. Definitely worth seeking out the TV show. One of the rare adaptations to the small screen that came close to the perfection of the book. This first episode ends with the cattle drive over the Nueces River and the first tragedy of many along the route.

The second episode deals a lot with Blue Duck, Gus and Lorrie. It is a rather brutal episode, but the beauty of Gus’ friendship for Lorrie is breathtaking as are the two gunfights, particularly the first one. I think they could have cast someone a bit more Heath Ledger-ish as Blue Duck as well as for Monkey John and Ermoke because the characters in the book were far more wicked and well-drawn. Episode two draws to a close as Gus comfort Lorrie.

In the 3rd episode, we see the results of Jake’s moral laziness and the justice meted out by his friends. We also finally meet Clara in Ogalalla. We also see that Elmira’s obsession with the “unlucky” Dee Boot leads her and Big Zwey to being scalped. Another excellent episode where the humanity of Gus’ half honesty contrasted with the increasingly blind devotion to Duty by Call, his utter lack of subtlety leading to Deeks’ unnecessary death, which closes the episode setting us up for the finale. In this episode, Duvall’s acting is truly something to behold.

The last episode deals with, well, the end of the book and is full of beauty in Montana as well as the death of some important characters for whom my entire family was in tears. It did not vary much from the book other than skipping the epic bull-grizzly fight and giving a slightly different final scene. Overall, it was an extraordinary TV show and was nearly a perfect reflection of the book. Duvall and Lee Jones are absolutely splendid and there are more great lines here than in the last 7 Star Wars movies combined. ;-) ...more
5

Jun 01, 2014


Hands Down my Favourite Book in 2014


First of all the physical; the book I see looking up at me from my coffee table. It looks worn, well thumbed, well read, pages and cover alike, beginning to curl up, and soiled by use. Well that and all the casual (I take books with me) acquaintances, to the one, they all had to pick it up, look it over. It may look well rode, but it still feels soft, warm and pliant in my hand. The stars twinkle up at me from the cover and I wish, I wish, I wish it wasnt
Hands Down my Favourite Book in 2014


First of all the physical; the book I see looking up at me from my coffee table. It looks worn, well thumbed, well read, pages and cover alike, beginning to curl up, and soiled by use. Well that and all the casual (I take books with me) acquaintances, to the one, they all had to pick it up, look it over. It may look well rode, but it still feels soft, warm and pliant in my hand. The stars twinkle up at me from the cover and I wish, I wish, I wish it wasn’t over. I long to go back…….

When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake – not a very big one. It had probably just been crawling around looking for shade when it ran into the pigs. They were having a fine tug-of-war with it, and its rattling days were over. The sow had it by the neck and the shoat by the tail.

“You pigs git” Augustus said kicking the shoat. “Head on down to the creek if you want to eat that snake.” It was the porch he begrudged them not the snake. Pigs on the porch just made things hotter and things were already hot enough. He stepped down into the dusty yard and walked around to the springhouse to get his jug. The sun was still high, sulled in the sky like a mule, but Augustus had a keen eye for sun, and to his eye the long light from the west had taken on an encouraging slant.


And so it begins. I have read a number of different reviews; many of which discuss how long it took for them to get invested in the story. Not so for me, I gotta say that I latched on to Augustus McCrae pretty early on and even though I can feel, quite acutely, Captain Call’s presence every time he crosses the page with Hell Bitch, it is Gus’s company I seek on this trail. Makes sense I guess, I met him first, back in 1876 in Lonesome Dove, Texas.

It has been quite a journey. Make no mistake; I spent time with all of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, not just the ex-rangers, as they drove their herd out of Texas and across the Great Plains, bound for Montana. I pined with Dish, listened to the Irish sing, and the remuda nicker and whinny. I ate dust with Newt on the heels of the herd and scouted for water and crossings with Deets. I was there for the water moccasins, the grizzlies and the cloud of grasshoppers, not to mention Blue Duck, one of the most frightening, sinister men ever; he made the hair on the back of my neck, my arms and everywhere else stand, stock still at attention. I seethed at Jake, swam with Pea Eye and felt Lorena’s despair way down deep in my bones. I am just skimming the surface here, there are others with tales to tell, like July Johnson, the painfully shy sheriff from Arkansas, searching for his wife and Clara, the dark haired beauty with the scorching tongue in Nebraska, who may just sear you with her words.

But back at the fire I would curl up and listen to Gus talk, reassured by his very presence, as we have a drink, play a hand or two and prepare to bed down. Amid all the words, in all the books, on all of the pages I have ever travelled, never before have I met a man so damn finely crafted, so carefully rendered, so agonizingly authentic as Augustus McCrae. It is as though I know him for real. Honestly. I enjoy his company and even now, miss his conversation. Yes, I want to go back……….. Ride one more time with the Hat Creek Cattle Company, who don’t rent pigs.

I god, folks, seriously, what is happening here? I do not read westerns. Fact is, were I not a member of this wonderful on line community of book lovers, chances are pretty good that I would never have read this book. Do not make that mistake and yes, I Thank You one and all!
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5

Mar 03, 2019

I approached Lonesome Dove with some trepidation. Its a very, very long novel about cowboys and set in the 1860s - not a literary comfort zone for me!
Investing a few weeks could have been risky .......
I neednt have worried however, all the hype for this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is deserved.
The plot is full of incident and high excitement, the human stories are emotionally gripping and there is a lovely, wry humour throughout.
The book is also surprisingly brutal in places. Life is often I approached Lonesome Dove with some trepidation. It’s a very, very long novel about cowboys and set in the 1860’s - not a literary comfort zone for me!
Investing a few weeks could have been risky .......
I needn’t have worried however, all the hype for this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is deserved.
The plot is full of incident and high excitement, the human stories are emotionally gripping and there is a lovely, wry humour throughout.
The book is also surprisingly brutal in places. Life is often cheap in the early days of the ‘wild west’ and bloodshed is commonplace, as is the casual sexism and racism of these pre PC times.
Most of the book concerns a cattle drive, a great, messy, lumbering affair that acts as a backdrop to the lives and loves of the characters. As the outfit navigate their way across thousands of inhospitable miles without gps or weather forecasts, they are under constant threat from Indians, bandits and ill health - doctors are extremely rare. There are many white knuckle adventures along the way and survival is random and unpredictable.
The savage, untamed landscape also drives much of the story, as the ramshackle group traverse vast prairies, deserts and mesquite covered scrubland - through dust storms, droughts, monsoon like rain, snow and plagues of crickets.
What most lingers in the memory though, are the people and their stories, the every day dramas and dreams of the Hat Creek outfit.
Cal, Gus, Newt, Lorena, Pea Eye and Deets are all characters sharply drawn and fully formed. Their strengths and failings, wisdom and fears, become important to the reader.
Like old friends I felt real affection for them ........
An illusion or cliche certainly, but as the last lurid sunset colours the prairie and I close the book for the last time, I can definitely still hear their voices.
Lonesome Dove is an immense and wonderfully sustained piece of writing ....... an epic and unforgettable read. ...more
5

Jul 09, 2017

My introduction to the fiction of Larry McMurtry is Lonesome Dove, consistently ranked as one of the best westerns whether the conversation is print or television. Published the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1985 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year, the magnum opus is a magnificent exploration of male friendship, with a dozen supporting characters of both genders who McMurtry could've dedicated a novella to (and often attempts to over 857 pages). The bantering My introduction to the fiction of Larry McMurtry is Lonesome Dove, consistently ranked as one of the best westerns whether the conversation is print or television. Published the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1985 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year, the magnum opus is a magnificent exploration of male friendship, with a dozen supporting characters of both genders who McMurtry could've dedicated a novella to (and often attempts to over 857 pages). The bantering becomes a beast of its own and the story padding crosses over into self-indulgence, but there's no question that there's a masterful novel in here.

Somewhere along the border of Texas and Mexico in the late 1870s lies the town of Lonesome Dove, which consists of little more than a dry saloon and a livery stable. The stable is operated by two retired Texas Rangers: a romantic idler named Augustus McCrae and the taciturn, hard driving Captain Woodrow F. Call. A two-time widower and a bachelor, respectively, the men lead Joshua Deets (a black scout from their rangering days), Peaeye Parker (an ex-ranger who is loyal but none too bright), Newt Dobbs (the seventeen year old progeny of a prostitute and in all likelihood, Call) and Bolivar (an ill-tempered cook who enjoys clanging the dinner bell with a crowbar).

Having dedicated their prime to eliminating the threat of Comanche Indians or Mexican bandits to Texas, Gus and Call have spent nine years operating the Hat Creek Cattle Company, stabling horses, stealing fresh ones south of the border for sale and little else. When he's not drinking whiskey on the porch or jawing, Augustus visits the Dry Bean for a card game or a poke with the town's sporting lady, a cool blonde named Lorena Wood who dreams of traveling to San Francisco, but needs a dependable man to get her there. Call, whose favorite pastime is sitting at the river crossing after dinner hoping he might catch a horse thief, hungers for a challenge.

Call was not a man to daydream--that was Gus's department--but then it wasn't really daydreaming he did, alone on the little bluff at night. It was just thinking back to the years when a man who presumed to stake out a Comanche trail would do well to keep his rifle cocked. Yet the fact that he had taken to thinking back annoyed him, too: he didn't want to start working over his memories, like an old man. Sometimes he would force himself to get up and walk two or three more miles up the river and back, just to get the memories out of his head. Not until he felt alert again--felt that he could still captain if the need arose--would he return to Lonesome Dove.

The next morning, Deets returns from San Antonio with Jake Spoon, a comrade from their rangering days whose love for ladies and aversion to work has led him to a career as a gambler. Jake had overstayed his welcome in Fort Smith, Arkansas when an argument with a mule skinner led to the accidental shooting of the town dentist, brother to the sheriff. Jake beats it to Lonesome Dove for the protection of his old friends. Lorena falls under the spell of the rogue, wounding the heart of a top cowhand named Dish Boggett who's in love with her, while Call is seduced by Jake's tales of pristine territory he's scouted in Montana, wide open to a ranching operation.

Receiving an order for forty horses from a cattleman driving his herd to Nebraska, the men cross into Mexico, where it's Call's mission to steal one hundred horses, buy some cattle and drive them to Montana to make their own fortune. Their stolen ponies collide with a herd driven south by horse thieves, multiplying their holdings. Call begins hiring hands and convinces Gus--who realizes there won't be anyone left to talk to but the pigs--to come along on the journey. Jake prefers a card game to work or to keeping his promise to take Lorena to San Francisco, but Gus convinces him to accompany her and them as far as Denver, knowing it would satisfy Lorena, entertain himself and infuriate Call.

Dangers on the trail include sand storms, stampedes, lightning strikes, nests of water moccasins in a swollen river and a barbarous Comanchero named Blue Duck, who abducts Lorena while Jake is off gambling. Rescued by Gus, her recovery is complicated by the discovery that he intends to reunite with an old flame in Nebraska named Clara Allen, the love he never got over. Meanwhile, a young sheriff from Fort Smith named July Johnson goes to Texas with his stepson Joe to bring Jake Spoon to justice. His hapless deputy Roscoe Brown goes after them once his boss's wife Elmira Boot Johnson promptly vanishes, headed for Nebraska with buffalo hunters to find her first husband.

The whiskey boat stank, and the men on it stank, but Elmira was not sorry she had taken the passage. She had a tiny little cubbyhole among the whiskey casks, with a few planks and some buffalo skins thrown over it to keep the rain out, but she spent most of her time sitting at the rear of the boat, watching the endless flow of brown water. Some days were so hot that the air above the water shimmered and the shore become indistinct; others days a chill rain blew and she wrapped herself in one of the buffalo robes and kept fairly dry. The rain was welcome, for it discouraged the fleas. They made her sleep uneasy, but it was a small price to pay for escaping from Fort Smith. She had lived where there were fleas before, and worse things than fleas.

McMurtry's indulgences with epic storytelling and the tendency of his minor characters to behave like idiots--their misplaced devotion leading them on foolhardy quests in pursuit of lovers who want nothing more of them--seem to go hand in hand. I could have done without the July Johnson and Elmira Boot subplots. McMurtry's banter as instigated by Gus is often amusing, sometimes profound, but there's too much of it. The overkill is balanced by the tremendous appeal of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, the archetypal visionary and practical man. Their company is stocked with archetypes I recognized, co-workers who were far from Texas Rangers or even cowboys but exhibited many of the same qualities as Deets, Pea or Jake Spoon.

McMurtry's facility with dialogue, character and description all brought to bear on Lonesome Dove. In addition to his terrific banter-- where men debate whether it is pigs or horses who are smarter or work through the great mysteries of women or death--I liked how devoted McMurtry was to exploring the relationship between two men. Like a marriage, Gus and Call love each other, but are getting fed up. I saw quite a bit of myself in the character of Woodrow Call, a gift for an author to pull off. As antagonists go, Blue Duck has no equal. The period detail is spare but I felt I had an extremely clear proscenium on what the Old West was like as McMurtry took me through it.

In 1972 after adapting his novel The Last Picture Show to screen, Larry McMurtry was approached by its director Peter Bogdanovich to script a western for him. The Streets of Laredo was envisioned as a deconstruction, with cowboys facing their mortality. The conceit was to cast James Stewart, John Wayne and Henry Fonda as Gus, Call and Jake Spoon but Wayne had second thoughts about razing the genre he helped build and the project stalled. Twelve years later, McMurtry bought the rights to his script treatment and developed Lonesome Dove. Its publishing success spurred an acclaimed four-part television mini-series on CBS in 1989 with Robert Duvall as Gus, Tommy Lee Jones as Call, Danny Glover as Deets, the enduring Diane Lane as Lorena and Robert Urich as Jake Spoon. ...more
5

Aug 20, 2018

I dont like sending that boy off to sit up with a whore, [Woodrow Call] said.

Hes young and innocent, Augustus [McCrae] said. Thats why I picked him. Hell just moon over her a little. If Id sent one of the full-grown rowdies, Jake might have come back and shoot him. I doubt hed shoot Newt.

I doubt hell even come back, myself, Call said. That girl ought to have stayed in Lonesome Dove.

If you was a young girl, with life before you, would you want to settle in Lonesome Dove? Augustus asked. Maggie “‘I don’t like sending that boy off to sit up with a whore,’ [Woodrow Call] said.

‘He’s young and innocent,” Augustus [McCrae] said. ‘That’s why I picked him. He’ll just moon over her a little. If I’d sent one of the full-grown rowdies, Jake might have come back and shoot him. I doubt he’d shoot Newt.’

‘I doubt he’ll even come back, myself,’ Call said. ‘That girl ought to have stayed in Lonesome Dove.’

‘If you was a young girl, with life before you, would you want to settle in Lonesome Dove?’ Augustus asked. ‘Maggie done it, and look how long she lasted.’

‘She might have died anyplace,’ Call said. ‘I’ll die someplace, and so will you – it might not be no better place than Lonesome Dove.’

‘It ain't dying I’m talking about, it’s living...’”
- Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove


I’ve been on Goodreads for just over ten years. In all that time, I have never written a review of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. This is a book I first read twenty-five years ago. It’s a book I’ve read four times since. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. But even though I’ve done 609 book reviews in those ten years, I have never written a thing about Lonesome Dove.

It’s the literary equivalent of refusing to take a picture of your kids.

But then again, it’s hard to describe the things you love the most. The heart does not translate well to the page.

Maybe the most difficult thing in discussing Lonesome Dove is conveying how a novel about a cattle drive – the subject of countless B-westerns – can mean so much. This is not just an instance of an author taking genre material and doing it really well. Rather, it’s an instance of an author taking genre material and doing something totally different, while still doing things completely the same.

If that makes any sense.

On one level, this is a familiar novel. All the touchstones of a cowboy western are present. There are nighttime raids into Mexico, and Indian fights, and outlaw gangs. On the trail, the men of the Hat Creek Cattle Company have to contend with ornery cattle, wild rivers, and sudden storms, not to mention a fearsome desperado named Blue Duck.

All that, however, is only incident to the central storyline: the platonic love story of two men. It is their co-dependent (some would argue destructive) relationship that drives the plot and gives Lonesome Dove its sometimes staggering power.

(It is worth noting that McMurtry adapted the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, a less platonic love story between two cowboys).

Those two men are ex-Texas Rangers Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. When the novel opens, they are running a middling cattle company in the border town of Lonesome Dove, Texas. We begin with Gus McCrae, making biscuits for breakfast:

It was tribute enough to sunup that it could make even chaparral bushes look beautiful, Augustus thought, and he watched the process happily, knowing it would only last a few minutes. The sun spread reddish-gold light through the shining bushes, among which a few goats wandered, bleating. Even when the sun rose above the low bluffs to the south, a layer of light lingered for a bit at the level of the chaparral, as if independent of its source. Then the sun lifted clear, like an immense coin. The dew quickly died, and the light that filled the bushes like red dust dispersed, leaving clear, slightly bluish air.

Soon enough, an old compañero rides into town. (Which is an utterly classical way to open a novel). This is Jake Spoon, a garrulous, fun-loving man who likes to drink, gamble, and make love. He has tales of the Montana country, a cattleman’s paradise. This captures Call’s imagination, and soon enough, he has everyone pointed north on an epic drive.

In tone, Lonesome Dove is elegiacal. It is set in the late 1870s, sometime after the death of Custer, but before the final slaughter of Wounded Knee. The west is still wild, but the writing is on the wall. The Indian tribes will soon be “pacified.” The open ranges will soon be platted and bound by wire fences. Civilization will out. An end of an era is coming.

Augustus and Woodrow recognize this. They are aging themselves, and much of the time, McMurtry is taking his story in two directions. While his characters physically move towards Montana, they are also traveling back in time, to the choices they made as younger versions of themselves.

Lonesome Dove is driven as much by character as plot. (The plot itself is wide-ranging, with several disconnected storylines gradually merging into climatic moments). Woodrow Call is the emotionally constipated leader, a hard, rigid man with a strict code of honor, who hates rude behavior and cannot tolerate weakness – especially his own. He leads a rag-tag group of cowboys, including Pea Eye, a sturdy hand who could not think himself out of a privy; Joshua Deets, a black tracker and scout (he is decent and loyal and just barely avoids the unfortunate “magical” stereotype); Dish Boggett, an excellent rider and cowhand, beset by lovesickness; Po Campo, a cook who pulls double duty as an insect gourmand and prophet; and young Newt, whose mother was a prostitute and whose father is a driving mystery.

The Hat Creek Cattle crew is also joined by a former piano player, a couple of stray Irishmen, and some intrepid pigs. Circling the orbit of the cattle drive is a plodding sheriff, a bumbling deputy, and the terrifying Blue Duck (one of fiction’s exceptional villains).

This is a masculine world, but there are a couple major female roles. The first belongs to Lorena, a prostitute in Lonesome Dove who accompanies the cattle drive to Montana. At first blush, she seems a tired type, the whore with a heart of gold. In McMurtry’s hands, though, she is much more. She does not always have control of events, yet she maintains her agency. She knows what she wants and does not want and acts accordingly.

The same is true for Clara Allen, the great love of Gus’s life, the one who got away. She is a character worthy of Gus in every way, and is one of the few people who can steal a scene back from him. She is blunt and brash and caught in the tangled webs of the past, like everyone else. Her native sense makes her a bit of a Greek chorus, commenting on Gus and Woodrow and the consequences of their relationship.

The amazing thing about all these characters, even the walk-ons, is that they feel real. They have depth. They do not always make the right choices. They do not always do the right things. They can be stubborn. They can be prickly. They are not always likeable. Frequently, they can be downright frustrating. (There are exceptions. Some of the characters are absurdities, because McMurtry has a bit of an eye for oddballs).

Towering over them all is Augustus McCrae. He is, I am confident in saying, one of the best characters in the history of American letters. He is a raconteur, the man who always has something to say about everything. He is both hard-bitten and starry-eyed; a pragmatist and a romantic. And he is filled with wisdom.

On hopes:

“If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.”

On moving forward, after life's setbacks:

“It’s my fault,” July said. “If I’d done what you said, maybe they’d be alive.”

“And maybe you’d be dead and I’d have to tidy you up,” Augustus said. “Don’t be reviling yourself. None of us is such fine judges of what to do.”

“You told me to stay,” July said.

“I know I did, son,” Augustus said. “I’m sure you wish you had. But yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back. Go on with your digging and I’ll tidy up.”

On renting pigs:

“If I had a mind to rent pigs, I'd be mighty upset. A man that likes to rent pigs won't be stopped.”

Gus and Woodrow are two very different sides to the same coin. It is never quite clear why they became friends (and it’s something that McMurtry has attempted, with limited success, to explain in the prequels). Nevertheless, they have real affection for each other, even though, as Clara notes, they might have been better off missing each other completely.

Lonesome Dove perfectly balances its tone. It is, at times, a realistic western with a mythical overlay. In other moments, though, it is pure myth, proudly brimming with archetypal tropes. McMurtry’s west is filled with legends of almost supernatural ability; it is also populated by half-wits and losers and men of average ability. This is a big canvas; still, it is never so big that two characters can’t run into each other at the appropriate time. The world of Lonesome Dove can be violent and grim and dark. It can be nostalgic. It can be funny and sly. It can be farcical. It can be plaintive and mournful. There is a hint or two of magical realism. As with many of the great epics, it refuses to be pegged as one thing; instead, it is all these things, like the world is all these things.

Perhaps the best novel I’ve read in the last decade is Philip Meyer’s The Son. A spiritual cousin of Lonesome Dove, The Son’s central character, the ruthless patriarch Eli McCullough, embodies the big themes about America’s westward expansion, and by extension, the formation of America herself.

Lonesome Dove’s themes are not so grand and sweeping. My paperback version is nearly 900 pages long, and with that kind of heft, you might expect McMurtry to say something profound about the complex arc of our national history. Instead, he centers his insights on people. Specifically, we are here to learn how to live from Augustus McCrae.

Augustus doesn’t teach us about conquering the frontier, dispossessing the Indians, or the costs of forging a continental empire. He teaches us instead how to live each day with joy, taking pleasure in the smallest things, and loving the smallest things so much that they become life’s very meaning.

He also teaches us to never trust a man who’d rent a pig. ...more
5

Dec 09, 2014

If you read only one western novel in your life, read Lonesome Dove.
USA Today

Above statement seemed a bit too much to me before reading the book but not after reading it.

My first time reading a Pulitzer winner and it is truly an epic story in every sense. A book that left me happy, sad, angry, and teary at times.

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call are two retired rangers who run a cattle company in a small town called Lonesome Dove. Whereas Augustus is very talkative Call is the opposite, “If you read only one western novel in your life, read Lonesome Dove.”
—USA Today

Above statement seemed a bit too much to me before reading the book but not after reading it.

My first time reading a Pulitzer winner and it is truly an epic story in every sense. A book that left me happy, sad, angry, and teary at times.

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call are two retired rangers who run a cattle company in a small town called Lonesome Dove. Whereas Augustus is very talkative Call is the opposite, talking only when it is necessary. An odd pair to be friends. Everything is going fine and suddenly out of nowhere an old friend, Jake Spoon, makes an appearance out of nowhere. Jake Spoon by mistake has murdered a doctor in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and is now wanted for same. Jake in his conversation tells Call about how he’d been to Montana and its beauty. How green it is and there is no one to claim it. Call gets all anxious to be to first to claim it and soon he starts his journey from Texas to Montana with some 3000 cattle.

I absolutely love the characters in the book. McMurtry has done a wonderful job in carving them. He has paid an equal attention to primary and secondary characters telling us about their backgrounds and how it effects their present.

It’s such a huge book and so many characters that at first I have a little trouble in remembering all in starting but soon I got addicted to them. I laughed with them, I cried with them, felt their pain, indecisiveness, sometimes I hated them for their foolishness but in the end I loved them all.

This review will be incomplete if I didn’t mention my favorite character from the book. & I think I am not alone in this, as far as I know he is everyone’s favorite from the book. Augustus McCrae, a non-stop talker, someone who can argue on a subject for countless hours. Fellow rangers worship him, though not for his talkativeness, but for he is a good man. I came to love his truthfulness and boldness. He is blunt but also helpful. Someone who keep his promises and has a good heart.
So a request to everyone who has this one on their tbr, please read it asap and if you don't have it on your tbr even then go ahead and read it for this is an awesome read. ...more
5

Feb 17, 2020

Larry McMurtry is as surefooted as any cowboys favourite horse. He never trips or stumbles. It doesnt take many pages before you know this is a 5 star book.

As you know this is the enormous story of a big old cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Thats kind of it. Bits get added on here and there but the main idea is to get these thousands of cows across 3000 miles of dangerous territory, through sandstorms, blizzards, bandits, droughts, through Indian nations, across rivers, via grizzly bears and Larry McMurtry is as surefooted as any cowboy’s favourite horse. He never trips or stumbles. It doesn’t take many pages before you know this is a 5 star book.

As you know this is the enormous story of a big old cattle drive from Texas to Montana. That’s kind of it. Bits get added on here and there but the main idea is to get these thousands of cows across 3000 miles of dangerous territory, through sandstorms, blizzards, bandits, droughts, through Indian nations, across rivers, via grizzly bears and hardly a single town in sight the whole way.

It becomes clear that these cowboy guys did not need a 7-Eleven or a Stop & Shop. The whole natural world was their Stop & Shop. If they needed lunch they shot it.

There are a couple of things that might set modern readers on edge a bit. Nearly all the female characters are or were whores (their term). And the Native Americans take the usual beating:

“How many Indians were they?"
Pea tried to think. “A bunch jumped us,” he said. “About twenty, I guess. Gus shot a few.”

There are a few oddities. There is an awful lot of loping in this book. Horses never canter or gallop or trot, they lope. Loping is also done by coyotes, wolves and men.

There is one of the greatest ninja warrior manic dream pixie girls, a wild child called Janey.

And the cowboys, tough as they are, don’t swear. They say “Dern” when provoked.

LOVE IN THE OLD WEST

In a beefy tough guy story like this love looms large. You might not think, but it does. But it’s the kind of love unknown in the modern world. A man sees a woman two or three times, perhaps doesn’t even speak to her, and he’s in love, and stays thinking about her for the next year. He’s a thousand miles away, it doesn’t matter. These days the internet allows us to fall in love with people we never met either, so times haven’t changed that much.

AN EXAMPLE OF MALE FEMALE RELATIONS IN LONESOME DOVE

“What was it you said?” he asked finally.
“I said we oughta get married,” Louisa said loudly. “What I like about you is you're quiet. Jim talked every second that he didn’t have a whisky bottle on his mouth. I got tired of listening. Also, you’re skinny. If you don’t last, you’ll be easy to bury. I’ve buried enough husbands to take such things into account. What do you say?”

THE TOUGH MINDED WOMEN IN LONESOME DOVE :

“Oh , you don’t have to thank me for a washrag,” Clara said. “I’m not much of a nurse. It’s one of my failings. I’m too impatient. I’ll give a person a week or two, then if they don’t improve I’d just about as soon they’d die.”

THE TOUGH MINDED MEN IN LONESOME DOVE

“I once drank the urine of a mule. It kept me alive” Po said.

LARRY MCMURTRY’S EYE FOR DETAIL IN EVERY ASPECT OF LONESOME DOVE :

Some of the cattle were so weak the cowboys had to dismount, , pull their tails and shout at them to get up.

(He knows the cowboys would pull the tails).

A RATHER BAD SCRAPE ONE OF THE CHARACTERS GETS INTO

He was naked, unarmed, without food and something like a hundred miles from the wagon. He didn’t know the country and was up against some tough Indians who did.

THE OLD COWBOY SONG LONESOME DOVE REMINDED ME OF :

Old Paint

When I die, take my saddle from the wall
And put it on my pony, and lead him out of his stall;
Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the west
And we'll ride the prairies that we love the best.

LONESOME DOVE IS LORD OF THE RINGS, ALMOST

And something I noticed – it could be that this is in the nature of most epic stories, but there was a Lord of the Rings vibe about the shape of the whole thing. The first 100 page is as leisurely and unhurried as the first 100 pages of LOTR leading up to Bilbo’s birthday party. A little later the Company of the Ring is formed (nine members). In Lonesome Dove the two ex-Rangers put together a Company themselves for their epic task - seven members. There isn’t a Mordor or a Dark Lord, but the Indians are the Orcs, for sure. Then after the task is accomplished, there is an elegiac, lengthy return to the Shire encountering old faces along the way, exactly mirrored by Captain Call’s return to Lonesome Dove.

FOOTNOTE : MODERN WESTERNS

This is the 6th I’ve read so far. All either good or great.

True Grit by Charles Portis
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The Thicket by Joe R Lansdale
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

When I was a kid Westerns were all over the tv (Bonanza, High Chaparral, all those 1940s horse operas) and I more or less despised them. Then Clint Eastwood rescued the whole genre. Then Hollywood and tv mostly got tired of the Western. But now these modern writers have kicked the whole thing back into life. ...more
4

Dec 13, 2010

I enjoy reading but McMurtry asks way too much. This epic tale spans thousands of miles from the Old West (TX) to the as-of-yet-up-for-grabs land of Montana. The characters are endearing; these are the premiere & authentic cowboys. The best stuff here is the campfire philosophy of Gus, and his incredible relationship with the solemn Woodrow Call is the stuff that legend is made of. The book refuses to end though, and despite the authenticity of this far away world (it is the Lord of the I enjoy reading but McMurtry asks way too much. This epic tale spans thousands of miles from the Old West (TX) to the as-of-yet-up-for-grabs land of Montana. The characters are endearing; these are the premiere & authentic cowboys. The best stuff here is the campfire philosophy of Gus, and his incredible relationship with the solemn Woodrow Call is the stuff that legend is made of. The book refuses to end though, and despite the authenticity of this far away world (it is the Lord of the Rings of Western classics), I could not help but feel that the different story lines, of the outlaws, whores and fellow pioneers went nowhere. (A life lesson in everything?) Would the plot have suffered if more chapters had been edited out? (Perhaps the bigness is part of the whole Lonesome Dove Experience.)

Nevertheless the book was incredibly tight, the characters brilliant in their thoughts &, even better, their actions. But sometimes I did want it to end... I'll admit the cowboys sometimes more than overstayed their welcome. ...more
5

Mar 04, 2015

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Retired Texas Rangers Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae leave behind their sleepy lives in the Texas town of Lonesome Dove to drive a herd of cattle to Montana. Will they make it alive?

When I was a lad, around the time the glaciers receded and civilization began, I was enthralled with a certain TV miniseries. It was, in fact, Lonesome Dove. Though it took a couple decades, I finally made myself read the book the miniseries was based on and I've very glad I did.

Lonesome Dove is an epic set in Retired Texas Rangers Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae leave behind their sleepy lives in the Texas town of Lonesome Dove to drive a herd of cattle to Montana. Will they make it alive?

When I was a lad, around the time the glaciers receded and civilization began, I was enthralled with a certain TV miniseries. It was, in fact, Lonesome Dove. Though it took a couple decades, I finally made myself read the book the miniseries was based on and I've very glad I did.

Lonesome Dove is an epic set in the dying days of the Old West. On the surface, it's the story of two men entering old age and going on one last adventure. Digging a little deeper, it's a story about friendship, loyalty, obsession, and carving out a new place for yourself in a world that's moved on without you.

The tale of a cattle drive across three thousand miles of prairie doesn't sound that interesting on the surface but McMurtry's tale is populated with a colorful cast of characters. Aging lady's man Augustus McCrae and duty-bound Captain Call contrast one another nicely. While being opposite in terms of personality, they both still have enough grit to be believable as former Texas Rangers and I have no trouble believing in their friendship.

The supporting cast also has its share of gems, like gambler and former Texas Ranger Jake Spoon, Arkansas sheriff July Johnson, former whore Lorena Wood, Gus's former love Clara, and Newt, the son of a dead whore whose father has yet to acknowledge him. While the book has an epic scope, the shifting viewpoints and colorful characters make it very accessible and a quick read for a book of its size.

While I'd seen the miniseries a couple times, this book managed to wring a few man-tears out of me. Knowing the deaths were coming made it harder somehow. I held out hope that a couple people would survive despite dying in the miniseries but it was not to be. The bottom line is that deep down, all men wish we had a friend that would haul our carcass from Montana to Texas if that was our dying request.

Five out of five stars. Go read the son of a bitch. ...more
5

Nov 03, 2018

What a phenomenal read, enormous and brilliant, witty and heartbreaking, a mamoth tale that touches the reader's emotions on so many levels. This is a book that honestly did not appeal to me in the slightest but 100 pages in I was hooked, invested, facinated and brought back in time to the Wild West of the 1870s and the adventures of a bunch of unforgettable and unique characters. I can definatley see why this is a Pulitzer Prize Winner.

The story focuses on a the relationship amount a bunch of What a phenomenal read, enormous and brilliant, witty and heartbreaking, a mamoth tale that touches the reader's emotions on so many levels. This is a book that honestly did not appeal to me in the slightest but 100 pages in I was hooked, invested, facinated and brought back in time to the Wild West of the 1870s and the adventures of a bunch of unforgettable and unique characters. I can definatley see why this is a Pulitzer Prize Winner.

The story focuses on a the relationship amount a bunch of Texas Rangers and takes the reader on an epic cattle drive from The Rio Grande to the highlands of Montana in the closing years of the Wild West days, A triumphant portrayal of the American West as it really was.

I came across this book on a " What Should I read next" Podcast by Anne Bogel, It was reviewed on several of her shows as one of those books you just have to read. When I realised that the novel was close to 850 pages and was a Western I put it on the top shelf and decided it could not possibly be worth the time and commitment. However January can be a long month and when my husband was looking for a good book to read and something that would hold his interest I reached for Lomesome Dove and we decided it was to become our January reading challenge and what a remarkable surprise this book turned out to be for both of us.
Western Novels are totally out of my confort zone however I do like a challenge and this book reminded me of The Pillars of the Earth in the sense that it is an epic monumental novel, with a wonderful sense of time and place, the most amazing and extremely well formed characters that you grow to love and root for and a book that suprises the reader in so many ways.
The prose is simple yet effective, the descriptions of the countryside and are vivid and transporting, uplifting and inspiring. This is a story of heroism, love, honour, loyalty and betrayal.

I gave this one 5 stars because it, educated me, made me laugh out loud, made me fall head over heels in love with Agustas McCrae and I couldn't wait to come home from work every evening to spend time with the boys and gals from Lonesome Dove.

I think there should be a list on goodreads for Books that you would never dream of reading but will end up absolutely loving

I read this in paperback and also purchased an audio copy as well and I can highly recommend the audio as very well paced and narrated. ...more
4

Feb 10, 2019

I've always had a soft spot for western movies. In high school, I roped my friends into watching the ones starring this guy:


Later, I swooned over the epic starring this guy:


Westerns haven't featured heavily in my reading life, but Cormac McCarthy sure got my attention last year with All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men.

This one, written in 1985, and winner of the Pulitzer prize, is about a million pages long. So you gotta love westerns if you're gonna love this. Cowboys, guns, I've always had a soft spot for western movies. In high school, I roped my friends into watching the ones starring this guy:


Later, I swooned over the epic starring this guy:


Westerns haven't featured heavily in my reading life, but Cormac McCarthy sure got my attention last year with All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men.

This one, written in 1985, and winner of the Pulitzer prize, is about a million pages long. So you gotta love westerns if you're gonna love this. Cowboys, guns, whores, whiskey and plenty of adventure, much of it involving man vs. the elements. If that ain't your bag, you've come to the wrong saloon.

As I was saying, this book is a zillion pages long, and it takes about 17 million of them for the story to actually start. So the beginning is painfully slow. Twenty six chapters go by before the characters pick up and leave Lonesome Dove for their grand undertaking - bringing their cattle to set up a ranch in Montana.

I struggled with the slow beginning, and was a little bit underwhelmed by the plain prose, until in section 3, when I came to a belated realisation of what I was actually reading: a STORY. I know this sounds really stupid, like duh, what did I think I was reading? I guess the Pulitzer label and the 5-star constellations that abound for this book had me expecting something different. But what this is, ladies and gents, is a high calibre, old-fashioned STORY. No fancy writing, but an epic, all-American adventure, filled with characters who get under your skin in the most insidious manner.

It sneaks up on you, but before you know it, you suffer when they suffer, your heart soars when they succeed, you understand and forgive when they fail. And you wish you had about an ounce of their grit - because these men and women are all tougher in their sleep than I could ever be on my toughest day.

I think I still prefer McCarthy's style (though McMurtry gets just as dark and violent), because of the poetic depth in his writing, plus he gets there in far less pages. But I tip my hat to Larry McMurtry - what an accomplishment! Yee haw!! ...more
5

May 28, 2015

Gus and his pig were aggravating company.

When I finished this, yesterday evening, I was filled by a tremendous sense of melancholy, not just because the book was finally finished, but because of its introspective nature. By far one of the best Ive read, Lonesome Dove is a dense book in more ways than one, and runs a gamut of emotions that will leave you feeling giddy. Hysterically funny the one moment, heartbreakingly tragic the next, it alternately delighted and depressed me to an extent I have Gus and his pig were aggravating company.

When I finished this, yesterday evening, I was filled by a tremendous sense of melancholy, not just because the book was finally finished, but because of its introspective nature. By far one of the best I’ve read, Lonesome Dove is a dense book in more ways than one, and runs a gamut of emotions that will leave you feeling giddy. Hysterically funny the one moment, heartbreakingly tragic the next, it alternately delighted and depressed me to an extent I have seldom experienced before (in so far as literary fiction is concerned).

[He] didn’t cry, but he was so shaken he went weak in the legs.

It is also one of the most complete novels I have ever read, and you have to read it cover to cover before fully appreciating its power. It isn’t just a tale about a cattle drive to Montana… it is a tale about transitions, the passing of time, and the ending of (all) things.

They were on a plain of grass so huge that it was hard to imagine there was a world beyond it.
The herd, and themselves, were like a dot, surrounded by endless grass.

If the book is sometimes a bit gritty or raw, it’s because it’s a tale of hard folk making a hard living in hard country. Lonesome Dove is an occasionally hilarious, occasionally bleak glimpse at frontier life (and frontier justice), and it may not be what you expected. You will come away from this one deeply affected, for better or worse. It will also make you think. A lot.

“I don’t know what to do. It’s been so long since I done anything right that I can’t remember it.”

The characters are marvellously colourful and often larger than life. In fact, the author should be applauded for managing to keep them from coming across as caricatures. Even though the story itself is fascinating, the fantastic characterisation undoubtedly forms the very foundation of this novel. It’s hard not to love a story that revolves around the likes of Captains Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae, polar opposites and saddle buddies. Not to mention the fantastically endearing supporting cast.

The Captain turned and handed him a holstered pistol and a gun belt.
“Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

It’s a big book and I’m guessing many of us have had this lying around for ages, but you really should make the time to read it. It’s worth every minute. Something that is worth a mention: the author has the uncanny ability to seamlessly change character viewpoints mid stride, which gives the story a nice flow.

Highly, highly recommended.

“Why would you want to hang them? They’re already dead.”
“I know, but it’s a shame to waste that tree. It’s the only tree around.”

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Pulitzer Prize Winner ...more
5

May 04, 2019

Its a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.

What does one say about Lonesome Dove? Seriously?
This epic novel is sprawling, contains a large cast of characters (in every sense of the word) and tells a story that combines the strongest elements of love that we can understand, those of a physical and intellectual nature.
This novel begins on the Rio Grande in Lonesome Dove, Texas, makes a long journey to practically Canada by way of Montana, and ends back in Lonesome Dove. The main drivers “It’s a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.”

What does one say about “Lonesome Dove”? Seriously?
This epic novel is sprawling, contains a large cast of characters (in every sense of the word) and tells a story that combines the strongest elements of love that we can understand, those of a physical and intellectual nature.
This novel begins on the Rio Grande in Lonesome Dove, Texas, makes a long journey to practically Canada by way of Montana, and ends back in Lonesome Dove. The main drivers of the story are former Texas Rangers, and business partners Augustus McCrae and Captain W.F. Call. I cared deeply about these two men. And Gus McCrae has to be one of the most quotable characters I have come across in all of literature. Honestly, “Lonesome Dove” is their story. It is a story of love and friendship. It does not sentimentalize either emotion, which makes it even more palpable, and true.
Larry McMurtry does a stellar job of deftly interweaving three or four plot lines into a story that eventually converges. The writing is beautiful and concise (a rare combination) and McMurtry does not belabor points. And in an 858 page novel that is a mean feat!
As for the characters, I can say I am a bit in love. No spoilers here, but McMurtry depicts the brutality of frontier life with a savageness that is realistic, quick, sudden, and then moved past. The reader will be jarred from time to time.
McMurtry also helps create voice and point of view in this third person novel with subtle stylistic changes in the text as the omniscient narrator jumps from one character’s head to another. Just the manner in which the text was written (depending on the POV) would let you know what character’s head we were in. As a feat of writing McMurtry succeeds brilliantly in this book.
As a feat of storytelling, “Lonesome Dove” is more than brilliant. Not one time when I picked up this text did I want to set it down because I was tired of reading it, or because the story dragged. Rather it was because life got in the way. Work, family, chores, etc.
This text is funny (hysterically so at times) heartbreaking, exciting, hold your breath tense…I could go on and on. I won’t. It took me forty years to read “Lonesome Dove”. Do not make that mistake.
I will revisit this text because I love some of these characters, and I miss them.
I can’t wait to meet up with them again. ...more
5

Jul 30, 2007

It was quite a few years ago that I read this epic tale, and Ive read a lot of great books since then. Even so, Lonesome Dove continues to hold a spot in my top ten. Im thinking as a tribute to this longstanding favorite that I should do something different. So this will not be a run-of-the-mill review; itll be a meta-review instead. Ill be distilling the wisdom of the crowd in a kind of ensemble piece, finding repeated observations from the books top ten Goodreads reviews to emphasize its best It was quite a few years ago that I read this epic tale, and I’ve read a lot of great books since then. Even so, Lonesome Dove continues to hold a spot in my top ten. I’m thinking as a tribute to this longstanding favorite that I should do something different. So this will not be a run-of-the-mill review; it’ll be a meta-review instead. I’ll be distilling the wisdom of the crowd in a kind of ensemble piece, finding repeated observations from the book’s top ten Goodreads reviews to emphasize its best qualities even more.

Before I get to the content itself, let me first mention that this sample was biased to the upside, with an average rating of 4.9. As “like” dispensers, we’re attracted to enthusiasm, and in my mind this book warrants every bit of that. Goodreaders like colorfully worded diatribes, too, but that’s irrelevant here. Hardly anyone rated this book below 4 stars. The other thing I’ve noticed about some books is that positions at the top of their scroll often reflect the overall popularity of the reviewers themselves, which may or may not speak to the content of the reviews. Several of those on a par with John Lennon (who in 1966, by his own informal polling, had surpassed Jesus Christ) may simply attach a gif, write a catch phrase or two, and call it a day. I saw nothing like that for this one. I figure that’s a sign that the substance of this book matters—it’s worth a full discussion. So here are the common elements that I gleaned.

You’ll fall in love with the characters

Six of the ten reviews mentioned this explicitly. For good reason, I say. McMurtry gives us plenty of time to walk in their boots. It’s not just with the two main characters either, former Texas Rangers Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow Call. As one reviewer noted, the secondary characters were rounded out too. Deets, Pea Eye, and young Newt were unforgettable members of the Hat Creek Cattle Company. Gus, the loquacious tale-teller and true-blue friend, along with Call, the taciturn leader and man of principle, were clearly the stars, though.

What a journey!

Five reviewers made a point of mentioning how arduous a task it was to drive cattle from Texas all the way up to Montana. The many hardships along the way were a big reason for the next common theme that the top reviewers mentioned:

It’s long

The Pocket Books edition I read (a misnomer unless your pockets are really big) weighed in at 945 pages. A large percentage of it covered the drive, with perils abounding. The weather, the land, and a nasty piece of work called Blue Duck all contributed to their travails. Three of the five who mentioned the length, though, also pointed out that it was paced well. The dialog, the entertaining anecdotes, and changes in perspective all helped keep the pages turning. Only one person said they thought it could have been improved with more stringent editing.

Great story

Four reviewers provided a plot summary and mentioned how engrossing it was. The adventure began when fellow ex-Ranger Jake Spoon was talking up the largely unsettled land up in Montana where an ambitious bunch could do well for themselves as ranchers. Call took the bait. Gus, the dutiful friend, had an ulterior motive for going named Clara, a love interest in Nebraska. Another woman, the young and attractive Lorena, was the central figure in several side stories. Other subplots involving frontier justice, pigheadedness, and random bad luck were worth telling too.

I laughed, I cried, I ____

Those weren’t the exact words that four of the reviewers used, but that was the gist. As for the blanks, one said “got pissed off,” another said something to the effect of “soiled myself,” and yet another said “felt their indecisiveness.” I might have said “prayed to the God of Western tropes for a little mercy.” But let’s not lose sight of the laughing and the crying. A great writer like McMurtry knows how to make us do both.

Gus gushings

Three reviewers stated explicitly that they loved Gus. I can see why. He was a rare combination of wise and impetuous, hedonistic and dependable, and he was a straight shooter in every sense. You couldn’t imagine a truer cowboy philosopher king.

Prize winner

This won a Pulitzer in 1986 as was noted in three of the reviews.

Led to a great mini-series

Three more reviews mentioned the popular and critically acclaimed mini-series that stemmed from the book. This was one of the best adaptations at a time before screenwriters had really mastered the art. It helped to have such a great cast: Robert Duvall as Gus, Tommy Lee Jones as Call, Danny Glover as Deets, Diane Lane as Lorena, Anjelica Huston as Clara, and plenty of other name brand actors. It ended up winning seven Emmy Awards.

You don’t have to like Westerns to like this

Had this been a standard format review, I’d have been tempted to lead with this. Two of the top ten did mention it, so I’m glad this important point has been made. It’s not that the book tries to distance itself from its Western roots. (You still taste dust and you still care about who's wearing the white hats, the black hats, and ones that are varying shades of gray.) It’s more that it expands upon the genre and executes it all to perfection.

Picture from the mini-series

I was a little surprised to see that only one review, and it was a good one, included a movie still. I suspect in a lot of minds now, the thought of Gus and Call are intrinsically linked to Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Maybe this goes with what I was saying before, though, that a classic like this lends itself to words more than images to express the deeper impact it has as a book.

Special thanks to Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin, Aaron, Brina, Bill Kerwin, Kemper, Matthew, Arah-Lynda, Joe Valdez, Em Lost In Books, and Fabian for participating (unwittingly) in this review. Their commentary formed the basis for what I’ve written. As such, they share in the blame if it fails to be convincing. No, seriously, I hope if any of you are sitting on the fence with this one that their sage words in promoting it push you over the edge. We’ll keep you clear of the cow patties, I swear. ...more
5

Jul 28, 2007

Lonesome Dove is my favorite book of all time and, when asked, is what I consider to be the greatest American novel ever written. It was so engrossing and the characters so compelling and the adventures so entertaining, that I wanted to read it in one sitting. It's one of those reads that I envy others who have yet to read it.

Gus and Call are two of the most memorable characters in American fiction. They are the yin & yang of cowboys: one caring and comical, the other cold and unemotional.

Lonesome Dove is my favorite book of all time and, when asked, is what I consider to be the greatest American novel ever written. It was so engrossing and the characters so compelling and the adventures so entertaining, that I wanted to read it in one sitting. It's one of those reads that I envy others who have yet to read it.

Gus and Call are two of the most memorable characters in American fiction. They are the yin & yang of cowboys: one caring and comical, the other cold and unemotional.

Blue Duck is one of the most evil characters I can remember reading about. Lorena the whore will win your heart as she grows in self-esteem after she is taken in by Clara and shown that she is worthy of love. So many other great characters that I don't have the time in the day to write about them.

Please read and enjoy! ...more
5

Jan 21, 2013

All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.

This is an epic novel, and the quotation by T.K. Whipple which I provided above is indeed an appropriate epigraph. It's interesting that Larry McMurty originally devised it as a All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.

This is an epic novel, and the quotation by T.K. Whipple which I provided above is indeed an appropriate epigraph. It's interesting that Larry McMurty originally devised it as a screenplay in 1972 - but the project never went through. Luckily for us the man did not scrape the idea, and decided to turn it into a book. He finally published the complete novel in 1985 to great acclaim, which culminated in it being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986.

The titulary Lonesome Dove is a small town at the very end of south Texas, near the Mexican border. It's 1876 - just eleven years after the end of the Civil War, and a short while since the Mexican-American war which ended up with the U.S. annexation of what is now New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona and Wyoming. The U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845 provoked the war - Mexico still considered Texas as a part of its territory, despite Texas revolving against the Mexican government and becoming an indepentend republic in 1836. As a result of the war, Mexico lost about half of its national territory, and the U.S. gained an enormous amount of land which now forms the American Southwest, with the Rio Grande becoming the national border. This was a great loss for Mexico, considering the discovery of silver in Nevada and the fabulous gold mines of California with its gold rush, along with the rich agricultural potential of the region. The war also had a tremendous psychological effects on both nations - the U.S. confirmed its vision as a continental empire, stretching from coast to coast, a land of rich and plenty. For Mexico, the war was a tragedy - as the country has just won its independence from Spain in 1821 the indignity of having its capital occupied and losing half of its territory to the enemy was a deep blow, from which it never really recovered.

Big as it may be, Lonesome Dove is not a political novel. The Mexican-American War and the Civil War are relevant to both the setting and timeframe - but never overtake it. The town of Lonesome Dove is populated with Texas Rangers, who used to guard the border against a possible Mexican invasion - and are not getting bored, since the invasion is question is less and less likely to happen. One of the characters mentions that Lincoln freed Africans, not Americans - and that's about it for the politics of Lonesome Dove.

Set in a border town, Lonesome Dove seems to be more focused on the shrinking border between civilization and wilderness. The novel opens with the image of two pigs eating a rattlesnake. They are holding it together, by the neck and the tail, "having a fine tug-of-war with it, its rattling days were over". This image - of two domesticated animals swallowing a wild one - is an accurate representation of man's progress in the West: the western expansion of civilization, resulting in expulsion and extermination of natives to pave the way for the settlers - wilderness and nature literally being swallowed by civilization.

Lonesome Dove is also a road novel - which I would consider a particularly American branch of fiction. The sheer physical size of the country is irresistible for people who dream of a long journey of exploration and discovery, both of the country and themselves; novels such as On the Road are a testament to that. However, the journey is not always motivated by such desires - sometimes it is a forced journey of desperation and escape, such as the one taken by Oklahomans to California in 1930's after the Dust Bowl, which John Steinbeck chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath.
After the Civil War, Texas was almost overflowing with cattle for which there was no local market - but there was a demand all the way up in the northern region in the country. Cowboys herded the cattle and went on cattle drives to Kansas, from where their cattle was shipped to Chicago stockyards via rail. In Lonesome Dove the cattle trail stretches from the border in southern Texas all the way to another border in northern Montana - a truly epic journey, considering the fact that a large part of the trail would have to run through what was still then Indian Territory, with many hostile inhabitants. Indians would not be the only hostile inhabitans as the deserts were full of bandits waiting for easy prey, and the country itself provided plenty of natural obstacles - scorching heat and thunderous storms, deceitful rivers and swarms of insects, the impenetrable darkness of the night.
(the expansion of the railorad system eliminated the need for such long cattle drives - notice that none of the characters see any railroad track in the whole book).

McMurty manages to walk on the delicate line which divides the romantic from the ridiculous: The West is full of dirt and scorching sun, and the work unpleasant and pays low; the civilization is still in its infancy, its cities and megacities are a vision of the distant future. Still, there is a dreamlike aura hovering around it, pointing our attention to the beautiful bonds and friendship formed between the cowboys and the beauty of their life on horseback on the vast, empty plains, and the bravery of the people who came to settle them, conquering hard conditions which welcomed them with their own hard labor. Sometimes it must have felt like they were the only people on earth, with the vast emptiness of the great plains stretching around them in all directions. But more and more people came, and eventually the land had to give in - as much as they could make it.

The novel excels at characterization, bringing to life some of the most memorable characters in Western fiction. Of particular interest are two former Texas Rangers, Augustus McCrae and Call Wood: One is loves a good talk and moving around, and the other is taciturn and still. Augustus is the owner of the two pigs who eat the snake in the opening scene. When Gus is preparing a sign which will advertise their horse trade - which he has no problem stealing from Mexico on night-runs, despite hanging people for the same crime in America - he makes sure to emphasize that the pigs are not for rent.

Then, as another afterthought, he had added, “We Don’t Rent Pigs,” which occasioned yet another argument with Call.
“Why, they’ll think we’re crazy here when they see that,” he said. “Nobody in their right mind would want to rent a pig. What would you do with a pig once you rented it?”
“Why, there’s plenty of useful tasks pigs can do,” Augustus said.

The rest of the cast is also beautifully drawn. The novel is not solely focused on the characters of Gus or Call, and features an ensemble cast, where even the minor characters are given an unique voice and characters; it's easy to forget that they are constructions made of words, as they sound real, act real, and all but jump off the page.
I found myself thinking about the meaning of the title - (view spoiler)[McMurty says that he thought of Newt as being the Lonesome Dove: an innocent, young and lonesome man, never recognized by his father. But I think that basically all characters are unable to form a relationship - Call refuses to acknowledge that Newt is his son because and give him his name, and is "afraid to admit that he's human"; Lorena is a dreamer, captured by the vision of San Francisco, refusing to pay attention to the feelings of men in the town of Lonesome Dove; Gus is unable to settle down anywhere and have a meaningful relationship with anyone; he was rejected by Clara because of that. Clara is unable to have a son as they all died early; her husband also dies, leaving her alone on the prairie with their two daughters. Even the Mexicans, Bolivar and Po Campo are alone - Bolivar is separated from his family in Mexico and has a strained - putting it mildly -relationship with them. Po Campo is a loner, who keeps mostly to himself. It is perhaps the reason why these characters form a bond, and reach out bravely for the unexplored frontier, hoping for it to be the land of happiness, where their dreams would be realized. (hide spoiler)].

The novel has the advantage of having an acclaimed TV miniseries to accompany it - with a great cast of Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane and Anjelica Huston among others - which I fully intend to watch (a bit of trivia: although the novel is set entirely within the U.S., the miniseries was actually filmed north of the border - in Calgary, Alberta).

Lonesome Dove is reminiscent of a victorian novel, where the focus falls on character and theme - a somewhat old fashioned kind of novel it these times, with a strong sense of place achieved by visualization and theme being explored with the pure energy of narration, not employing any stylistical gymnastics common in contemporary fiction. What's also remarkable is how it is paced - the first quarter moves along slowly, like a day in a small Texas town where it takes place, but when the cast hits the road the events significantly pick up speed, and develop into an utterly grand adventure - not that it was boring or dragged in the first place. The slow and relaxed first part is a brilliant introduction to the rest of the text, allowing the reader to gently sink into the saddle before grinding down the spurs. True to the time, the novel features plenty of violence (sometimes gruesome) but also moving human drama and genuinely funny humor - not in the least provided by the two pigs. I found myself hooked to the book and read it with pleasure all the way to the very end, and intend to revisit it in the future - it's certainly worth reading several times, and fully deserves the Pulitzer. Lonesome Dove is a great American story of the time when the country was still full of unexplored wilderness, populated with great characters and fantastically told - there really is not a boring moment in all its 945 pages. Once upon a time people could take what they had and go to the West, where they could make history or be killed: Lonesome Dove is a testament to these pioneers, who made America the country and nation it is now, and on its pages we can live the lives they lived. ...more
5

Apr 01, 2011

Looking for the Great American Novel? It's right here. Read this book before you die. It's as simple as that.
5

Nov 19, 2013

This is my top favorite book of all time. Its been on top since I read it shortly after it came out in paperback. This is one of those great books where I remember the segment of my life while reading it. That's how strong the Fictive Dream is in this book: Where were you when? The book has two of the most endearing characters of all time, there's action, romance and great story lines. But most of all I think this book is about enduring friendship and loyalty. For years I wondered how how This is my top favorite book of all time. Its been on top since I read it shortly after it came out in paperback. This is one of those great books where I remember the segment of my life while reading it. That's how strong the Fictive Dream is in this book: Where were you when? The book has two of the most endearing characters of all time, there's action, romance and great story lines. But most of all I think this book is about enduring friendship and loyalty. For years I wondered how how McMurtry created such interesting characters and story. Then I read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and realized that some of the story must have been taken from Texas history. This in no way detracts from this wonderful story.
I highly recommend this book
David Putnam the author of The Bruno Johnson series. ...more
5

Jan 20, 2010

The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.

During a recent trip to the local bookstore, a discount stack of Lonesome Dove caught my distracted eye. Picking up a copy, I randomly flipped through to read three separate passages. And like an amnesiac, I promptly forgot all about the books I sought to find in the first place. Because this here was the book I didnt know I needed to read right now.

At its core is a simple enough storyan epic cattle drive, not long after the Civil The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.

During a recent trip to the local bookstore, a discount stack of Lonesome Dove caught my distracted eye. Picking up a copy, I randomly flipped through to read three separate passages. And like an amnesiac, I promptly forgot all about the books I sought to find in the first place. Because this here was the book I didn’t know I needed to read right now.

At its core is a simple enough story—an epic cattle drive, not long after the Civil War, from southern Texas to northern Montana—but there’s nothing simple or subtle about the effects the various undercurrent narratives had on me.

As wild and raw as the vivid landscapes were continuously invoked, it is with the characters where this novel truly excels. Among a handful of major characters, I often forgot many of them were constructs made of words. That they seemed more real than the sum of a limited amount of words continually amazed me. Even minor characters came to life quickly and lingered long after exiting stage left, leaving behind solemn shadows.

Death and humor are doled out abundantly and in roughly equal measures, striking a necessary balance. For as commonly as death occurs, it often occurs violently. Not quite with the same force-fed frequency as found in Blood Meridian, but at times on the same level of intensity. That’s where the humor here helps temper the unexpected and ubiquitous death.

More than a good deal of this book’s humor emanates from one, if not the main character—Augustus McCrae. A man…I mean, a fictional character not likely to leave my thoughts anytime soon. Crowding around Gus in this harsh and brutal world are many other prominent characters, not least of all a couple of especially strong-willed women woven into the essence of this long tale.

As long as this story may be, it reads more like a novella, so quickly do the pages fly by. And when the last page passes, it passes by without complete closure—highlighting the way we all experience life outside these books. Life coming and going, surrounding everyone until abandoning us one by one. As though death were life’s joke on us all. ...more

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