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So Brave, Young and Handsome Paperback – 4 Jun 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847247903
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847247902
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 536,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A formidably gifted writer. wise and knowing about the ubiquity of the human condition and the vagaries of the human heart' Chicago Tribune. (Chicago Tribune)

Wondrous and wise - Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes. (Frank McCourt)

Sharp and brainy. Enger's laid claim to a musical, sometimes magical and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling' Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times)

Heart-achingly beautiful - Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer. (Nicholas Evans)

From the Back Cover

`We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly, And bitterly wept as we bore him along. For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young, and handsome, We all loved our comrade, although he'd done wrong'.
Minnesota, 1915. Glendon Hale is a wanted man, a train robber who's been in hiding for years. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Glendon decides to travel back to his past and find the wife he abandoned long ago.
On a misty river one morning, he meets Monte Becket, a failing author. Together with Hood. A headstrong youth who longs for the life of a cowboy, the two men set out, travelling from the old West into the new. But all the while, they are pursued by Charles Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton determined to bring Glendon to justice.
A road trip to end all road trips, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is an elegiac tribute to the great storytelling traditions of the old West and a classic work of modern American fiction.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
"That is how you want to be remembered, my friends. Take a picture in your moment of conquest, when your luck is high and bullets still bounce off. That will do for the ages." - Monte Becket

Monte Becket lives with wife and young son in rural Minnesota along the Cannon River during the second decade of the 20th century. To date, Becket's one claim to wealth and fame is his wildly popular pulp Western, MARTIN BLIGH. His publisher wants more, but, lately, Monte's muse has failed him. Becket is drifting and anticipating failure as a writer, husband and father. Then one day, out of the fog on the river, a white-haired old man paddles his boat past. Enter into Monte's life boat-builder Glendon Hale, formerly Glen Dobie of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.

Hale was once married to a Mexican girl named Blue. But, sought by the Federales, Glendon deserted her never to return. Now, years later, he desires to go back and apologize to the woman he truly loved. He invites Monte to accompany him on the journey, and the latter, fearing the stagnation in his life, accepts. Along the way appears Charles Siringo, also once of the Hole-in-the-Wall, but now a self-anointed lawman of some legend, mostly constructed from books that he himself has written. Charles, now an old man himself, is in relentless pursuit of Glen Dobie for past crimes.

SO BRAVE, YOUNG AND HANDSOME is a coming-of-maturation story by Leif Enger. Its characterizations and narrative pace are reminiscent of Larry McMurtry's novels of the West, e.g. the superlative Lonesome Dove.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Monte Becket is struggling to follow up the runaway success of his first novel. Money is running short and he's facing up to the fact that he may have to go back to his old job in the Post Office. Glendon Hale abandoned his wife many years ago and now wants to go back to Mexico to find her and apologise. When Glendon asks Monte to accompany him, it seems like a way for Monte to postpone any hard decisions for a while. So with the blessing of his wife Susannah, he agrees to go. Along the way they pick up a third companion, young Hood Roberts, who dreams of the old West and wants to join the Hundred and One rodeo.

The story of a road trip that starts in Minnesota and eventually ends in California is also the story of a trip back in time. Set in 1915, each of the three characters is looking backwards - Monte with his book set in a, for him, imagined world of the old West; Hood, the young motor mechanic, who clings to the romantic idea of being a cowboy in a world that is moving on; and Glendon, the only one of the three with experience of the old days, a former outlaw of the Hole in the Wall era and still wanted for crimes committed years ago. Each of the three is searching for something in the past, and in a sense they each find what they're looking for - but perhaps not as either they or the reader might expect.

Into this mix comes Charlie Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton man, determined to hunt down Glendon for one final blast of glory. Siringo, somewhat oddly, is based on a real Pinkerton agent though, from what I understand, pretty loosely. In the book, he's the legal good guy but the moral bad guy, as the reader's sympathies are very much with the three fugitives. Well, we always did prefer Butch and Sundance to the Sheriff, didn't we?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a story that moves with a kind of quickness and agility. You don't ever get bogged down. I read half the book in one sitting and then found myself constantly sneaking peaks over the next few days, eager to know what happens next. This is really such a well-written novel and so enjoyable. I encourage you to give it a try.
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Format: Paperback
I don't even remember when, or why I picked up So Brave, Young and Handsome (although the sticker on the back tells me I bought it somewhere in the Euro-zone - it must have been an impulse purchase at a train station!) and it probably would have sat on my shelf for a lot longer than the two years it's already been languishing if it wasn't for a challenge on Goodreads.

I think I probably bought it without reading the synopsis and mistook it for a historical fiction about WWI, which it wasn't. Instead, it was a story about a novelist who loses his purpose and sets off randomly on a trip with a man who drifts past his home in a rowboat one afternoon.

A mixture of adventure, road-trip and self-discovery, I didn't form a huge attachment to any of the characters. I could sympathise with Monte's loss of direction, and I could understand his need for some kind of adventure, but I really didn't get why, despite his unending comments about wanting to go home to his wife, that he didn't just go back and pick up his old life. I'm not sure if the author was aiming for a sinister or action-packed story, but if that is the case then on both fronts it didn't really work - I didn't feel any kind of danger for the characters, nor a sense that Monte wouldn't make it through his adventure.

There was however a distinctly wild feel to the story, and Monte and Glendon's wandering bought them to some very unique and vividly drawn locations, from the circus/rodeo to the open planes of Ohio and through to the hills of California, so there was a definite feeling of a real road-trip across 1910's America.

The favourite part of my book was the ending (and no, not because it was finishing!
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