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Bad Land [Paperback]

Jonathan Raban
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Jun 1997

Jonathan Raban takes the reader on an enthralling journey into the least populated and least known region in the United States, Montana, and finds there the heart and soul of the country. Bringing to life the extraordinary landscape of the prairie and the homesteaders whose dreams foundered there, and reaching forward through history to the present day, Bad Land uncovers the dangerous legacy of American innocence gone sour.

'Bad Land should be recognized as a blazing classic' Sunday Telegraph

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Bad Land + Driving Home: An American Scrapbook: An Emigrants Reflections Pb + Old Glory (Picador Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (6 Jun 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330346229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330346221
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jonathan Raban is the author of over a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, including Passage to Juneau, Bad Land, Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Coasting, Old Glory, Arabia, Soft City, Waxwings and Surveillance. His awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s Heinemann Award, the Thomas Cook Award, the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, and the Governor’s Award of the State of Washington. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Harpers, The New York Review of Books, Outside, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, The London Review of Books, and other magazines. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreams turn to Dust. 6 July 2005
By Michael Murphy VINE VOICE
"Bad Land" is a captivating account of the great con perpetrated by the USA government and big business, working in cahoots, primarily against emigrants from Britain and Europe who were deceived by the prospect held out to them of a new life in eastern Montana as homesteaders farming free, fertile land. The reality was that the new railways running through the dry prairies of Eastern Montana depended on passengers and freight for survival and this required the land to be populated and worked. The stark truth was that the promised land was dry and dusty, with little rainfall - land you couldn't grow a toenail on, totally unsuitable for farming. Unbeknown to the emigrants, they would end up owning "all the dust, rock and parched grass you could see, and more." Thousands of attractive, glossy brochures were distributed far and wide across the USA and Europe promoting the golden dream of riches and prosperity as being there for the taking, just waiting to be snapped up. James J. Hill, the notorious railway magnate, lauded the homesteader scheme as "opening the vaults of a treasury and bidding each man help himself" People were so taken in by the prospect of riches in the new world dangled before them in glossy "golden" presentations and pictures that they were prepared to uproot their lives and their families and risk their lot on "a landscape in a book." They had no conception of what they were letting themselves in for.

Raban is at his best re-creating the great adventure west to eastern Montana, his imagery of that vast, forbidding terrain capturing the landscape in all its moods.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising classic 18 July 2006
The triumph that is this book deserves to be hollered across city tenements and wide open plains the world over. Raban has conjured a travelogue-cum-social history to rank alongside the classics of Paul Theroux - to whom this book is dedicated - as one of the very best of its genre. The fruits of his phenomenal research alone would have guaranteed a mesmerising read about one of the most remarkable yet forgotten periods of recent American history. But Raban's ability to take the accounts of disparate characters from past and present and mould them into one epic, illuminating and truly unputdownable account of humanity's battle to beat the odds in 'Big Sky Country', enables this book to blaze with a brightness which befits its subject. It makes one want to throw open the upstairs windows, suck in the fresh air and long to discover what lurks just over the horizon. It is what every travel book should aspire to be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unknown history explored 29 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This is the middle volume of Raban's loose trilogy of books about his journey across America, and benefits from being read after "Hunting Mr Heartbreak".
Again Jonathan Raban successfully blends historical anecdote with travel and autobiography. Not only does he bring to life an unknown (for me) period of American history, but he also brings out contemporary resonances. The personal stories of the early twentieth century settlers, and their misguided enthusiasm for Montana, are memorable and poignant. The settlers' hopes seem to parallel the aspirations of modern day economic migrants, and remind us of the illusory nature of those hopes for most people, then and now.
The stories told have stayed in my mind longer than most, and although about a little known period of American history, reflects powerfully on the current state of America.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but not Raban's best book 1 Jan 1999
By A Customer
An evocative book which looks at the settlement of the 'dry lands' of Montana as the Railways headed west across the USA, a doomed enterprise on land insufficent to support cropping. A review of a cynical government policy introduced under intense lobbying by the railway barons. The juxtaposition of the farily recent history with the current intensely conservative attitudes of the families which managed to hold on is extremely interesting.
Raban has made the work live by using family histories and moves easily between past and present with, as always in his work, a wonderful eye for landscape and ear for dialogue.
Recommended but try 'Old Glory' if this is you first meeting with the author.
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