Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review: All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy really knows what he's doing. Disregards the rules and it all works. This is the fifth book I've read by him and I'm always amazed. And each book stands alone. This one is reminiscent of Blood Meridian and even No Country for Old Men because of the wandering over dry landscapes. But where Blood Meridan at times seemed pointless, John Grady Cole is driven. And he drives the reader on. I usually don't go for books with settings that are too unfamiliar. I will usually get lost trying to imagine things I've never seen, or I get lost because the writer assumes the reader has a basic understanding of the setting. While McCarthy uses names for plants and landscapes that I don't know, the settings are so much a part of the mood and the tone of the text that I don't feel like I've missed a thing. If anything, I'm only more inspired now to go see the places he has described.

Tragedy always seems to be around the corner in McCarthy's novels, but even though I know it is coming, I am always appropriately shocked. I don't think this novel has the same spark as Suttree, but everything in All the Pretty Horses has a purpose, is firmly grounded in a sense of justice. It may not be a justice we're familiar with, but everything feels well anchored.

Love is not a often a subject in McCarthy's novels, but here it is a key element and handled with deft and tact. No one would accuse the author of sentimentality, but the reader does not doubt that the emotions being described are not true.

Obviously, I should have read this book many ages ago. And the pleasure I had in reading the novel moves up McCarthy's other novels on my reading list.

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