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All the Pretty Horses

4.3 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing (2 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517144638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517144633
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 5 Oct. 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an astonishing and spellbinding book, a triumph of writing and storytelling. The first sentence is sufficient to draw the reader into a journey from a father's deathbed to the wild plains of the American West. But the time could be the present with its drab towns, unemployment and men either too intelligent or too stupid for the lives they are trapped in. The author can describe the American landscape with an honesty and lyricism that echoes the finest ancient literature. He does this in a unique style that sounds like the voice of a hardened cowboy who understands deeply his horses and his land. This book leaves Hollywood versions of the west behind in the dust. For McCarthy's world is tragic and poetic, blackened with brutality and rotten justice as much as it sparkles with the beauty of nature. Its heroes are tough, battered and compelling to the last page.
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Format: Paperback
In the first instalment of his border trilogy, Cormac McCarthy has distanced himself somewhat from the bleak and dark themes and characters he created in his first novels, such as The Orchard Keeper and Outer Dark, and reset his prose in western America, in the border country that divides America from Mexico. Into this landscape of harsh beauty, he puts John Grady Cole, our protagonist, and his friend Lacey Rawlins, two old school cowboys who see the western life that they love changing, and decide to leave for Mexico in search of work as 'Vaqeuros', ranchers. On their way they encounter Blevins, a dangerous young boy with a keen shot riding a stolen horse. Their experiences shape the story into what i believe to be one of the finest books written by an American author in decades. McCarthy's prose is a joy to read, and the dialogue is often poignant and hilarious. And he also delivers what is probably the greatest fight scene in contemporary literature. Poetic, beautiful, funny, and at times almost unbearingly sad, read this.
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Format: Paperback
I'd never been greatly compelled to read a book in such a typically cinematic genre, but this is incredible. It combines the bloodthirsty epic sweep of the great Sergio Leone spagetti westerns with the harsh realism of later revisionist works such as Unforgiven. All this described in a language born of the genre - McCarthy has developed a kind of pure-Western prose seeped in the rugged, open country, the tough men trapped in their interior worlds, their bleak fatalism and capacity for violence. Its envisioning of Mexico as the new frontier for a dying breed of ranch men (ie., cowboys) is realised with unromanticised poeticism. The writing - like the cowboy dialogue - is economic yet vast in its capacity to evoke the landscape and its protagonists deep respect for it. McCarthy also has a great ear for dialogue that enriches what might otherwise be perceived to be rather clichéd characterisations, such as the ruthless Mexican captain. The first in McCarthy's Border Trilogy - this has also been adapted into a movie by Billy Bob Thornton that I haven't yet seen.
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Format: Paperback
As I approached the half-way point of `All the Pretty Horses', I started to think about how I would review this book. I decided to begin by describing Cormac McCarthy as a `punctuation minimalist' but, in hind-sight, I don't think this term goes far enough. Perhaps `punctuation denier' or `comma tease' would be more appropriate labels (...I admit that neologism isn't my strong point). `All the Pretty Horses' contains no speech marks, semi-colons, ellipses, dashes or parenthesis; very few apostrophes and even fewer commas. The full-stop is the only standard unit of punctuation employed here, and often comes at the end of very long, complex sentences.

What's more is that McCarthy's syntax is frequently polysyndetic - long chains of conjunctions separate short noun groups, with multiple actions being described in single sentences; a style reminiscent of William Faulkner or Ernest Hemmingway.

All of this would be incidental, however, were it not coupled with highly accomplished writing. The prose is alive with metaphor, evocative imagery and unusual philosophical asides. This linguistic and grammatical aesthetic is highly stylized; here metaphors don't merely comment on what is being described, but actively create it -for both the reader and the characters. The identity of the American landscape is inextricably entwined with the language used to forge it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Few books seem to live up to the hyped reviews published to promote them (professional reviews that is, rather than the more accurate assessment you'll find from Amazon reviewers) - but All The Pretty Horses is one of them. Having experienced the power of McCarthy's pared back prose in The Road, I was looking forward to this, and wasn't disappointed.

Not usually a fan of Western-style stories and settings, McCarthy really persuaded me otherwise with this spellbinding tale of the borderland world between Texas and Mexico - and the harsh lives led by the people who occupy this often bleak, forbidding but clearly beautiful landscape. It is no exaggeration to say that McCarthy really does transport you to the time and place. For large chunks of the book it was impossible not to feel part of the surroundings, such as was power of the storytelling.

At its heart, this is an old fashioned boy falls in love with unattainable girl story, but McCarthy weaves magic into his unfolding story, giving the charaters an occasionally other-wordly feel. In stark contrast to the landscape, McCarthy also adds in considerable violence to his story, but this too demands to be read hungrily.

There are benefits to reading this on Kindle - namely the ability to call up the dictionary to find meanings of the numerous Spanish/Mexican terms that McCarthy ladles into the text - I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite as much without bothering to do this on several occasions, so this is a plus for the e-book version, which does occasionally contain some odd formatting it must be said.

Overall, an absolute steal at under £2.
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