This is not a formal review of Lonesome Dove, meaning this post CONTAINS SPOILERS! I thought these posts would be a great way to check in every 200-300 pages to recap the action and my feelings on it. This post is dedicated to Part 1.
Let’s dive right in with a quick summary: In Part I, we meet the crew from Lonesome Dove, which includes Augustus McCrae, Captain Call, Deets, Newt, Jake Spoon, Dish Boggs, and others. We establish that they are former cowboys, but currently cattle ranchers living in Texas, near the Mexican border. When Jake Spoon returns, after being away from the town for nearly twenty years, and suggests that the crew journey to Montana, the crew starts to mobilize to begin the trip.
The start of Lonesome Dove was.. good! It feels very introductory and set-up-y but I do have good feelings for where it’s going. Normally if I’m not well in to the story by page 100, I don’t have high hopes for the rest, so the fact that I read 228 very dense pages and still have hope for the rest says a lot.
One thing I was worried about in this book were the amount of characters. I thought about keeping a list, but McMurtry actually does a really good job of including context clues throughout this section to remind you of who each character is. Pro tip: a lot of characters have multiple names. While I suspected certain names were overlapping characters, it took me probably the first 50-60 pages to really be sure. For example, Augustus McCrae goes by Gus, Augustus, or McCrae interchangeable and Captain Call goes by Call or The Captain, and occasionally, Woodrow. But again, I found this surprisingly easy to pick up on.
While not a lot happened in the first part, I found the pacing of the novel really well done. I never felt bored and always felt like things were moving ahead. I think this is helped by the amount of characters, and the narration style that travels effortlessly from character to character, providing a lot of different opinions and keeping the plot advancing.
One note is that when comparing this book to modern standards, it’s pretty sexist. The story is set in the 1800’s, so it’s important in keep the story timely, but I will admit that a few times, I had the feeling that if I were more fussy about feminism (including retroactive feminism) I may not totally love this book. Having a whore in every town, and talking about how cheap a Mexican whore would be is not exactly 2019 conversation. Semi-related: I think it’s kind of funny that the author refers to sex as a “poke” and male genitalia as a “carrot”.
Overall, I think the cast of characters is great. The Gus vs. Call conflict, as well as the Gus vs. Jake conflict, is sure to keep things interesting. I like Lorena, but think she’s a fool if she thinks Jake Spoon is going to take her to San Francisco. And I think Newt is an interesting character with a lot of opportunity for controversy due to the unknown nature of his father! As they set out on the trail, I’m very interested to see how they can keep the story interesting. And how far will they go? All the way to Montana?