15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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