My 12 in 12 Challenge – April – Historical Novels – Book 11

My penultimate book in this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I actually read it on Kindle which doesn’t immediately help with the reduction of my physical to-be-read pile but does help to tackle the equally large electronic to-be-read list which I tend to forget about because I don’t see it on a daily basis.

This is a long book so I am glad I read it on Kindle as my poor arthritic fingers have problems with big, physical books. It is a Western which I don’t normally read and I think I bought it in a Kindle sale (so many of the books on my electronic to-be-read list come that way) on the off chance that I might enjoy something different. I understand that it was a TV series at one point but I have never seen it and I came to this book without much knowledge of the contents.

The story is about a group of men, mostly ex-Texas Rangers, who have outlived their usefulness by the Mexican border and decide to travel to Montana to set up a cattle ranch. They acquire the cattle and horses by stealing them from the Mexicans, who have almost certainly stolen them from others first, and then set out to drive them across America. The book mostly consists of the cattle drive, the places they visit on the way, the people they meet and the events that happen. Although the book is over 900 pages long it is full of action and I was gripped.

The newly formed Hat Creek Cattle Company consists of Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call who employ some long time comrades and some new cow hands to undertake the cattle drive. They are joined by an ex-partner Jake Spoon and he brings with him the local sex worker who he has promised to take to San Francisco. Not all of these people will reach Montana, some die in accidents, some are killed by hostile people, some are hanged and some leave the group – you really can’t tell from the beginning what will happen to each of the characters and those who don’t die often face very difficult situations.

Some of this book is very funny, some moments are tender, there is lots of action and some definitely made me cry. It is a page turner with a number of different stories going on simultaneously, for example we meet the sheriff who is pursuing Jake Spoon and his deputy, an old lady friend of Gus’ and her family, the sheriff’s wife who has run away from home and another cattle driver who meets with bad luck. The characters in the book think and speak like people of their time but there are lots of occasions where the story narrative challenges stereotypes.

I recommend this book highly. I really enjoyed it and I feel that the author must have written very well to engage me with a story and characters normally outside my reading comfort zone.

I have just one more book to read in April to meet my target – I’m about half way through it so I must try hard to meet the goal.