Top positive review
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Not enough stars to do this justice
on 2 December 2008
To try and do justice to these wonderfully original works in a few lines is an impossibility. The three books together make up what turns out to be a magnificent odyssey. It is a strange but ultimately rewarding journey you make with these characters. You get to know the characters well and enjoy their dry laconic wit. But the most striking feature is the main characters are so likeable. They are the best of American manhood. They stand up for all that is good in the star spangled banner. In fact they simply stand up for all that is good. If I could ride, which I can't worth a damn, then these are the young cowboys I would be happy to ride with if they'd have me.
In "All the pretty horses" we meet young John Grady Cole who with his companero set off South of the border on a whim. They meet a character called Blevins who seems like trouble and sure enough turns out to be trouble with a capital T. A mexican ranch and a pretty senorita are involved but the spectre of young Blevins comes back to haunt the good old boys. They end up suffering under Mexican justice. The rest I will not spoil other than to say it is a rollicking good read.
In "The Crossing" we meet the equally likeable Billy Parham and his younger brother. This is my personal favourite of the three books. The material is unpromising but McCarthy weaves magic with it. The boy Parham captures a wolf and decides to return it across the border to old Mexico where he stays for a bit longer than intended. On his eventual return he finds his parents have been murdered. He pauses briefly to pick up his brother and they head back over the border to hunt for the murderers. The book takes up an epic feeling as the journey takes on a never ending quest. Parham becomes a strange Quixotic figure in an alien landscape. Although he speaks perfect Spanish he and his brother seem like " Strangers in a strange land". The finale is a heart rending affair.
In the final book "Cities of the plain" Billy Parham and John Grady Cole are brought together in a magnificent story of tragic doomed love and friendships that run deep. Again much of the story takes place South of the border. It is a fitting finale to the trilogy.
All three books are breathtaking in their scope and ambition. One reviewer I read compares McCarthy with Hemingway. I will commit heresy here by saying that McCarthy is far better. His examinations of friendship, family ties and a love that crosses boundaries of state and the human heart simply amaze. All the characters are heart rendingly real. They are all too human. McCarthy will one day be recognised in the pantheon of the Worlds great writers. I love these three books as I grew to love the characters in them. That is the effect they have on you. This is a remarkable trilogy.
Be warned that Spanish is used liberally in all the books. My only knowledege of the language is through watching too many Westerns, so it would not get me far in old Mexico. Personally I found this only enhanced the feel of the book. I would also add that some knowledge of the American West is an aid, although not essential. The ghosts of the past loom quite large in his books. This is 'manna from heaven' for an old western buff like me, but more than this it is writing that far transcends its own genre. This is a series, that like Pat Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy, will undoubtedly in the not too distant future be heralded as literary classics.