Customer Review

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, harrowing, sweeping - but ultimately, disappointing., 12 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
Billed by some as the Great American Novel, The Son is in my view the Quite Good American Novel. It opens with a rather daunting family tree covering seven generations of McCulloughs so you know it's going to be a long haul.

In fact, though, Philipp Meyer concentrates on just three family members: Eli's is far and away the most interesting story. After a horrifying attack on his family by Comanche Indians, Eli and his brother are dragged off as captives and Eli's adjustment to the native ways is as fascinating as it is, frankly, shocking. (You do need a strong stomach for this book.)

The second character is Jeannie, Eli's great-granddaughter, and how she becomes a Texas oil magnate. This story is almost Giant-meets-Dallas though without the interest, intrigue or shoulder-pads. Indeed, Giant is even referred to at one point (not by name but it's pretty obvious). The third is Eli's son, Peter, an intelligent, introverted man with a conscience who is not cut out for his predestined macho way of life. The stories of Jeannie and Peter are repetitive and unrewarding, Jeannie's tale in particular never really taking shape or stirring the heart or mind of the reader.

The writing is capable and the use of the vernacular is interesting though a glossary would have been helpful. Nevertheless, the sequences in The Son that are set amongst the Comanche are very powerful - indeed, haunting - and the lost ways of life for the Native Americans, the cattlemen, the Mexicans in Texas, even for the oilmen whose wells are drying up, all these are engrossing. Meyer quotes Edward Gibbon on the frontispiece: "...the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works...buries empires and cities in a common grave."
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Sep 2013 15:51:45 BDT
R. B. Dennis says:
I agree with Sue's comments. I have just finished the book, but had to make myself do so. I read three others in between as it just did not seem to be going anywhere!

I could have taken a great deal more of Eli's story as I empathised with this character the most, having spent two years working on the Canadian prairies which helped me picture the terrain he would have lived in during his time with the Comanche.

The book definitely needs a glossary of terms because so much is lost on those who do not understand all the American terms and phrases.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Mar 2014 15:42:07 GMT
PJ Sturdee says:
About two thirds of the way through the book, have to agree to similar sentiments. I'll finish it, at least I think I will, but this isn't in the same class as American Rust

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jul 2014 06:56:42 BDT
I absolutely agree with your thoughtful review and respect your knowledge of the terrain. I too wished for a glossary of terms and have come to these boards in order to better follow what I am reading. I am mid way through, it was a choice made by our book club not by me personally and I am finding it challenging. I downloaded the family tree from the look inside facility as I am reading it on my kindle. Happily perhaps as I imagine the sheer weight of this book would be tiring to hold!

How do you cope with the revelling in violence, to humans and to animals. All sympathy with the Comanche tribe and their way of life evaporated when I read about the relish with which they tormented the blond haired blue eyed boy who surrendered to them. Dreadful stuff to hav ein your head. Especially before sleep.

When I opened the kindle version it said 13 hours in book! Luckily it is speeding up now as I am half way through. I think I like the Jeanne sections best as they are less horrible!

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jul 2014 19:07:51 BDT
Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to comment, Mrs Kirby - you have opened up an interesting dialogue!

I was interested to learn that kindle tell you how long the book takes to read - does it always tell you that? And how does it know how slowly - or quickly - you read?!

Going by what you say here, may I recommend The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee? If you can get past the brutal prologue, it's also a sweeping read - and one that becomes increasingly absorbing. It's also just been nominated for the Booker longlist (not that that means anything very much these days, sad to say).

For something far gentler, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry is a must!

Best wishes


In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jul 2014 17:51:04 BDT
Thanks, Sue! I have now posted my less than warm review about this marathon read. The kindle paper white learns your reading speed and predicts time left in chapter, time left in book, it also gives a percentage read so far. Throughout 'The Son' this marker really dragged, time almost went backwards. I couldn't get a proper hold on Jeannie and Peter, the narration skipped great chunks of Jeannie's life and as for Peter I think he pulled off a disappearing trick? Now I am looking forward to our Book Club meeting although it is some way away as we miss August, it will be a lively meeting and the lady who chose this will have some defending to do!
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