“It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.”
Lonesome Dove is a book celebrating the memory of a breed which died out long ago, who had been dying out a while before the events of the book even started. A purely character-driven story, it shows both the joys and the misery of the old west, along with the heroes and villains who were around when it first began. They became respected or respectively feared as legends before their deaths, and despite the time passing, were forever restless.
Augustus McRae is the heart of the novel in terms of characterization – his humor and carefree attitude makes fun times, his honor is commendable, and his itch to argue and debate keeps the others on their toes. I personally loved the cold and unemotional Call who battled night and day with his personal demons – he had no issue spending his life roaming and finding new territories, but in his personal life he had strict barriers up against most people, unable to even set a foot in the right direction to cross and break those boundaries.
“He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.”
I found the friendship between Call and Gus beautiful, although Clara clearly didn't. She saw them as poisonous to each other by encouraging their roaming lifestyles, while in them I saw two last men standing together, Gus knowing how much Call needed him and knowing the man better than he knew himself. Their strong differences in personality were amusing, but what united them was stronger that was divided.
You have the two strong leaders that are paired with men riddled with fears, doubts, insecurities, and invulnerabilities. Newt was especially adorable as he tried to fit in; he was one of my favorites. The scene with the Indians and him losing the cattle was hilarious, the end with him and Call heartbreaking.
The women were…mixed. Elmira was about as much of a villain as Blue Duck, not in a violent way but horribly dislikable. Clara was strong and feisty, it was interesting being in her head. They all had their losses in the violent times, and hers were among the worse with her dead children. How sad! While she rocked in some ways, she turned me off in others. Lorena was interesting as she was so cold and cut off that it took me awhile to warm up to her and care much. Her plight during the story was harrowing and destructive. The ending with her was potently emotional.
While I enjoyed being in the head of most of the characters, there were a few I didn't care to be in the head of and my attention drifted. The book took a little long to get off, I was anxious for the journey to finally begin. When it did, it was fascinating – through horrible scenes that further cemented my snake phobia (terrible), wild animals, Indian wars and Indian alliances, betrayal among the men, weather realities, personal growth – for some a step forward, some a sad step backward.
Bountifully rich with strong characters, Lonesome Dove worked on so many levels than just that. Villains were purely bad through and through, and gloried in it. Heroes were pedestal worthy by legend but not in their own minds. The layers of how them reacted to their acknowledgement in town, to travels, to memories, was well structured. It was interesting in the last pages that when he planted the sign, that their names had been rubbed off. Even if the book is speaking of the living as they lived, there are always - whether in people or memories - ghosts flickering with them on the pages.
“The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”
"The earth is mostly just a boneyard."
“It's a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.”
Movie Trailer (Blu-ray):