Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Book Cover: Lonesome DoveWell, would you look at that? It’s a post! And not just any post but a book review post! It’s time to brush off the old keyboard and see  if I can still call myself a reviewer!

Whenever somebody that I know offline would ask me what my favorite read of 2010 was (surprisingly a question I hear more offline than online), I without any hesitation or doubt would say Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  “Really?” and a blank stare is what I would almost always get back. People, this book was AMAZING.  Every 945 pages of it. When it ended, I wished there was another 945 pages. I was not ready to let these characters go!  Lonesome Dove has deservedly been called epic. But what makes a book epic?  I think it’s just one of those things that you know it when you read it. And oh, was this book epic.

Larry McMurtry is a master storyteller.  I was a tad daunted opening that very first page and I do admit that even 200 pages into the book I wondered if anything was ever going to happen.  And even though it was off to a slow start, I wouldn’t wish it any other way. The background characterization that McMurtry gives his essential to the story.

The inside cover of my copy of the book lists the key characters with a short description of each. I loved the summary it gave so am taking the liberty of copying it here for  you.

Augustus McCrae: ex-Texas  Ranger. A fierce fighter, loyal friend, gentle lover, a boisterous spinner of colorful yarns. Gus years for adventure, and is drawn into Woodrow Call’s dream – a cattle drive to Montana, to the free and wild frontier . . .
Woodrow F. Call: Gus’s partner and friend, a driven, demanding man, a leader with no patience for weakness – and a secret sorrow of his own . . .

Jake Spoon: dashing gambler, former comrade-in-arms of Gus and Call, his passions plunge him into a terrifying fate . . .

Clara Allen: the woman of Gus’s young dreams. Out of the frontier’s cruelty and death, she forgers a life as generous, brave and unyielding as the land she learns to love . . .

Blue Duck: a renegade Indian with cunning heart of a vulture. He tortures and ills across the Plains, and savors his victim’s agony . . .

Newt: the brave, bewildered young cowboy who discovers his manhood, and his past, on the hazardous journey into Montana . . .

The Hat Creek Outfit: Jake, Deets, Pea Eye and the Boys . . .  wranglers, tracers and scouts, they follow Gus and Call into the heart of the adventure, through sandstorms, stampedes, bandits, floods and snow . . . living on in the undying legends of the great American frontier.

If you don’t know who these characters are from having read Lonesome Dove yourself, I dare you to love them.  I dare you to hate them.

I picked up this book in every spare moment of my day when I was reading it. And when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be reading it. I thought about it constantly.  I know I haven’t gone into all the intricacies of why Lonesome Dove is so amazing but let me tell you simply-  the characters! the story! the love! the friendships! the fighting! the determination! the devotion! the heroes! the outlaws! the whores! the Indians! the frontier! the forging ahead! the friendships again!  And it’s also laugh out loud funny with some great one-liners and some beautiful passages.  Definitely need those lighthearted and thoughtful moments between the gun slinging, the scalping, and the hangings.

Yes, my favorite book of 2010 was unabashedly a Western.  A genre I didn’t really think I read.  But did I tell you I loved this book?  Oh, how I loved Lonesome Dove. Officially one of my most favorite books.  Ever. Do you need more recommendation then that?

(I remember when the mini-series came on TV when I was little and we all watched it together as a family. MUST re-watch it now! )

Links of interest: More book  blogger reviews.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Western
Publisher: Pocket Books. 1985.
Paperback, 945 pages. ISBN 067168390X
Lonesome Dove is available from your favorite independent bookstore, Powell’s, and Amazon.

23 comments


  1. That book has been sitting on my shelf for at least 15 years now. I was thinking maybe it was time to let it find a new home when I started hearing about it around the blogosphere last year. With this sort of recommendation,maybe I’ll ever pick it up and read it one of these days :-) .

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 12:36 am
  2. I have never heard of this one…

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 1:13 am
  3. It is so nice to read a review when they writer of it is so passionate about the book – western really isn’t my thing but you make the book a must read :D

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 6:06 am
  4. I have been meaning to read this for ages, but haven’t got around to it. I have to be in the right mood for a book of this size… Might be a good book to read as an ebook if that is a possibility…. Great review, though!

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 6:12 am
  5. Stupid but I get intimidated by the size of the thing. Hmmm…maybe audio? Funny, but one of my favorite books of all time is also a Western called Outlaw by William Kiefer. I’m thinking of re-reading it for C.B. James’ Hop-along, Get-along Western Reading Challenge in May (you only have to read one!). The first time I read it, I was reading at stop lights, and eventually pulled off the road to finish it. So good.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 6:21 am
  6. You make me want to read it again! I think westerns get a bad rap and I am going to start giving them a little more attention I’m thinking.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 9:04 am
  7. My mother raves about this book too! She’s talked about it so much, sometimes I feel as if I’ve already read it. I’m adding it to my wish list.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 9:07 am
  8. I never would have considered reading this. Now you have me reconsidering …

    Great thoughts!

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 11:03 am
  9. Wow! Talk about gushing review :)

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 am
  10. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Natasha @ Maw Books and Natasha @ Maw Books, Pam van Hylckama . Pam van Hylckama said: RT @mawbooks: I updated my blog last night with a review of LONESOME DOVE! Easily my favorite book of 2010. http://bit.ly/eYSuNP [...]

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 12:03 pm
  11. I never pegged you as a western lover, but I did like watching the series. Nice review.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 12:26 pm
  12. love love Lonesome Dove. his sense of place is awesome. You can feel the heat of the desert when he writes about it. so glad you reminded me of that favorite of mine.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 1:13 pm
  13. I love this book and just finished re-watching the TV version a few months ago…it still holds up very well except for the corny music–the music they did in those old mini-series sounds very Old Hollywood. I noticed the same thing re-watching Shogun and The Thorn Birds in the last year or so. But all three are still great! And you can’t beat Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove…he’s so perfect for the character.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 4:26 pm
  14. Perhaps I will pick this up for CB’s western as well. I must say I’m already walking into this genre with a whiny middle school attitude. *But* your enthusiasm has me curious.

    Off to see if I can find it on BookMooch or PBS.

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 6:04 pm
  15. I’m so glad you liked this one so much! I know, for me, I loved it just as much the second time and it is one of my favorite books of all time!

    on February 23rd, 2011 at 9:19 pm
  16. it’s been on my tbr list forever!!!–Will definitely need to dig it out soon!!!–But when you said that you wished it could have “gone on for another 945 pages” I thought I’d mention that it has at least two companion books–a sequel, “The Streets of Laredo” and a prequel, “Comanche Moon”–and I’m pretty sure they all have mini-series.

    p.s.@Fourth Musketeer, I heart the Thorn Birds!!!!

    on February 24th, 2011 at 5:18 am
  17. Ive only heard this mentioned in passing and in reference but I’ve never really focused on it for something I would like. Your review is so positive I think I may change my mind! ;O)

    on February 24th, 2011 at 9:36 am
  18. This is also my best friend’s book, and after 12 years she has never pushed it on me. Result? This coming week I am bringing it on my cruise, so odds are good I’ll get to it (although Sho-gun is before it, so there’s always a chance I won’t. But, fingers crossed!) This was perfect timing to see your post! You’ve got me psyched to read it.

    on February 24th, 2011 at 4:41 pm
  19. As you know this is one of my all-time favorite books. But I wouldn’t call it a western; I guess I’d call it more historical fiction. But whatever you call it, it will remain a favorite forever.

    on February 25th, 2011 at 5:05 am
  20. I just loved this book and I’m so glad the readalong got me to finally read it. Now my mission is to get The Hubster to read it because I know he’ll enjoy it.

    I have such a crush on Gus.

    I agree with Beth F. I hesitate to classify this one as a western.

    on February 27th, 2011 at 11:02 am
  21. Read this with Amused by Books and My Friend Amy last fall for our read along — couldn’t have gotten thru it without them (because of it’s massiveness!) but LOVED every word!

    on February 27th, 2011 at 1:19 pm
  22. It was my grandpa’s favorite movie and we watched it every time we went to visit. I’ve never even thought of reading the book but now I’ll have to add it to my list.

    on March 21st, 2011 at 10:57 pm
  23. [...] Augustus “Gus” McCrae’s old sweetheart in Larry McMurtry’s epic novel Lonesome Dove. Clara lives with her comatose husband Bob and their children on the Platte, near Ogalalla, [...]

    on May 11th, 2011 at 5:50 am

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