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The Big Sky

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A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction. Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersme A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction. Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love.


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A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction. Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersme A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction. Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love.

30 review for The Big Sky

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Thane

    This is the first novel in A, B. Guthrie, Jr.'s trilogy about the settlement of the American West. It spans the years from 1830 to 1843, or roughly from the time that fur trappers and traders, along with the American Indians, had the Far West pretty much to themselves, until the time when settlements were growing up along the Missouri River, when steamboats were plying the western waters, and when settlers were beginning to think about making the overland journey to Oregon. At the center of the s This is the first novel in A, B. Guthrie, Jr.'s trilogy about the settlement of the American West. It spans the years from 1830 to 1843, or roughly from the time that fur trappers and traders, along with the American Indians, had the Far West pretty much to themselves, until the time when settlements were growing up along the Missouri River, when steamboats were plying the western waters, and when settlers were beginning to think about making the overland journey to Oregon. At the center of the story is a Kentucky boy named Boone Caudill, who is barely seventeen when the story begins. In the midst of a fight with his drunken, abusive father, Boone smacks the older man with a piece of firewood, knocking him out cold and, Boone believes, perhaps killing him. With that, Boon has had enough of his home and of Kentucky. His Uncle Zeb, whom he knows only very slightly, is a mountain man, living somewhere up the Missouri River. Encouraged by the tales he's heard from Zeb, Boone decides to follow in his uncle's foot steps. He sets out for the West, having many adventures and misadventures along the way. He hooks up with another young man, Jim Deakins, who will become his best friend, and the two of them join a party of fur traders, making their way by boat up the Missouri and into Indian country. It's a very hard and extremely dangerous journey, but along the way, Boone grows stronger and harder and begins to evolve into the mountain man he will ultimately become. As the story progresses, we see the changes that these critical years make in Boone, in the Indian inhabitants of the land, in the Far West, and to some extent, in the larger nation itself. It's a story beautifully told, entertaining and exciting, and at times tragic, and it well deserves its reputation as an American classic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Axsom

    I particularly love fiction when the allegory and the story march hand-in-hand to a natural conclusion. I don’t need to be spoon-fed, I just relish when the character and the polemic arrive at similar points, after similar journeys. Sounds simple… but, not so much. The Big Sky is a beautifully written novel that takes some getting used to. It’s about the mountain men of the West during the years 1835-43 and A.B. Guthrie’s style is a perfect fit for the era and the people, whom he so lyrically des I particularly love fiction when the allegory and the story march hand-in-hand to a natural conclusion. I don’t need to be spoon-fed, I just relish when the character and the polemic arrive at similar points, after similar journeys. Sounds simple… but, not so much. The Big Sky is a beautifully written novel that takes some getting used to. It’s about the mountain men of the West during the years 1835-43 and A.B. Guthrie’s style is a perfect fit for the era and the people, whom he so lyrically describes. It takes a while to shift gears enough to fully appreciate a three paragraph description of the sound and feel of the north wind in the trees but, once you abandon yourself to the stunningly descriptive style, you’ll begin to get a feel for the things that drew mountain men west. The book certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the western adventure. Do not come to The Big Sky hoping for something in the vein of Lonesome Dove - you’ll be frustrated and disappointed. Expect, instead, a Walden-like meditation on the unblemished frontier, permeated by an intimate look at the type of soul who ventured there and devoted some of his life to its discovery. The reviews here of The Big Sky are punctuated by laments over the despicableness of the character Boone Caudill and I could certainly pigeonhole Caudill as despicable, though I don’t. Instead, I put him into the same category as the allegory Guthrie’s driving home throughout the book, and that is the telling of a tragic story of the ultimate destruction of something pure and good and holy, precipitated unwittingly by the very men who found it most so. In that, Caudill turns out to be, in my thinking, one of the most heart-breaking characters I’ve ever encountered and the seminal events in the destruction of the American West, as described so subtly and agonizingly by A.B. Guthrie here, among the most calamitous. The Big Sky is a profoundly moving study of man’s inexplicable, maddening propensity to destroy the things he loves, woven through a gorgeously poignant ode to the vast, lost American West. Guthrie lays out a righteous, graceful polemic counseling future generations to more wisely shepherd America’s wilderness than did those who came before and, through it, he inspires a deeper contemplation of our place in the world.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    "You want to go to St. Louis, don't you, Boone? That's what counts. Not this here. You want to trap beaver and fight Injuns and live like a natural man." He forgot to add catching the clap to that list of manly pursuits . . . "Can't miss it and still shine as a man." Young Boone, striking out from home for the very first time, is lucky to have more seasoned guide like Jim Deakins to offer advice, and help navigate the rough terrain that lies ahead. Together they head up river, hoping to make it "You want to go to St. Louis, don't you, Boone? That's what counts. Not this here. You want to trap beaver and fight Injuns and live like a natural man." He forgot to add catching the clap to that list of manly pursuits . . . "Can't miss it and still shine as a man." Young Boone, striking out from home for the very first time, is lucky to have more seasoned guide like Jim Deakins to offer advice, and help navigate the rough terrain that lies ahead. Together they head up river, hoping to make it as fur trappers. What they find is not true wilderness, but streams already emptied of beaver by previous travelers. "This was man's country onc't. Every water full of beaver and a galore of buffler any ways a man looked, and no crampin' and crowdin'. Christ sake!" This is a rough and raunchy tale, well written, though perhaps too raw for some readers bothered by racism, sexism, and a frequent use of the n-word. Part one of a series, the author's next book, The Way West, won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize. This is an exquisite tale of men who were changed by the wilderness, in the days before wilderness was much changed by men. In case you might be doubting Guthrie's writing chops, take a gander at this lovely end-of-life musing: He had lived a man's life, and now it was at an end, and what had he to show for it? Two horses and a few fixin's and a letter of credit for three hundred and forty-three dollars. That was all, unless you counted the way he had felt about living and the fun he had had while time ran along unnoticed. It had been rich doings, except that he wondered at the last, seeing everything behind him and nothing ahead. It was strange about time: it slipped under a man like quiet water, soft and unheeded but taking a part of him with every drop - a little quickness of the muscles, a little sharpness of the eye, a little of his youngness, until by and by he found it had taken the best of him almost unbeknownst. He wanted to fight it then, to hold it back, to catch what had been borne away. It wasn't that he minded going under, it wasn't that he was afraid to die and rot and forget and be forgotten; it was that things were lost to him more and more - the happy feeling, the strong doing, the fresh taste for things like drink and women and danger, the friends he had fought and funned with, the notion that each new day would be better than the last, good as the last one was. A man's later life was all a long losing, of friends and fun and hope, until at last time took the mite that was left of him and so closed the score. Manly, yes, but I liked it, too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου

    "The days were gone when a man could sleep as long as he wanted and get up lazy and eat some meat and lie down again, glad for warmth and a full stomach and even the ice that put the beaver out of reach. It wasn't quite sunup when Boone awakened, hearing the sharp chirp of a winter bird that spring was giving a voice to. The others were sleeping, except for Summers who was sitting up and shivering a little. Poordevil was snoring a kind of whistling snore, as if the gap in his teeth gave a special "The days were gone when a man could sleep as long as he wanted and get up lazy and eat some meat and lie down again, glad for warmth and a full stomach and even the ice that put the beaver out of reach. It wasn't quite sunup when Boone awakened, hearing the sharp chirp of a winter bird that spring was giving a voice to. The others were sleeping, except for Summers who was sitting up and shivering a little. Poordevil was snoring a kind of whistling snore, as if the gap in his teeth gave a special sound to it. Every time the bird cheeped, he would stop and then start in again, maybe getting the cheep mixed up in his dreams". 6 στα 5 αστέρια!!! Να βάλω το μυαλό μου σε τάξη και να βγάλω από μέσα μου όλες τις σκέψεις και τα συναισθήματα που μου άφησε αυτό το υπέροχο έργο, δεν είναι εύκολο. Ο A.B. Guthrie Jr, ο συγγραφέας αυτού του μυθιστορήματος έγραψε ένα είδος καθαρόαιμου αμερικάνου ρεαλιστικού - ιστορικού μυθιστορήματος, γνωστού ως western το οποίο απέχει μακράν από την στερεοτυπική απεικόνιση των καουμπόηδων με τα σαλούν και τους πιστολέρο. Βρήκα ένα άρθρο του Richard Severo για τους New York Times όπου αναφέρει: "Ο Guthrie επέλεξε να προσεγγίσει με έναν σαφώς διαφορετικό τρόπο την λογοτεχνία γύρω από το θέμα της Άγριας Δύσης, διαφοροποιούμενος από τους συγκαιρινούς του. Τίποτα στη γραφή του δεν θυμίζει τη φθηνή απεικόνιση της λογοτεχνίας western η οποία εκείνη την εποχή έχαιρε ευρείας αποδοχής. Ο Guthrie είχε δηλώσει πως δεν ήθελε να γράψει μύθους γύρω από τη Δύση." 'Ετσι λοιπόν στα 1947 γράφει το μυθιστόρημα "The Big Sky", το πρώτο μέρος μιας τριλογίας (ακολουθεί το "The Way West" στα 1949 που κερδίζει αμέσως το βραβείο Pulitzer την ίδια χρονιά, και κλείνει με το με το "Fair Land, Fair Land" γραμμένο τριάντα σχεδόν χρόνια αργότερα, στα 1982 που λειτουργεί ως επίλογος). Το "The Big Sky" ξεκινάει στα 1830 με τον πρωταγωνιστή της ιστορίας, τον ατίθασο και ανυπότακτο δεκαεπτάχρονο Boone Caudill και φτάνει ως τα 1843 καλύπτοντας ένα διάστημα δεκατριών ετών. Το μυθιστόρημα χωρίζεται σε πέντε μέρη και μέσα από αυτό παρακολουθούμε την πορεία του νεαρού, από ένα μικρό χωριό του Kentucky, προς τα βορειοδυτικά, ως την περιοχή που σημέρα βρίσκεται ο καταυλισμός των Ιδιάνων Blackfoot (γνωστό ως Blackfeet Nation), εκεί που όπου οι πολιτείες του Idaho, της Montana και του Wyoming χωρίζονται από την οροσειρά των Βραχωδών Ορέων (Rocky Mountains) από την μια, και τις μεγάλες πεδιάδες του ποταμού Missouri και το Yellowstone (που σήμερα αποτελεί εθνικό πάρκο). Ο Boone δεν έχει την παραμικρή φιλοδοξία, παρά μόνο το όνειρο της απόλυτης ελευθερίας. Επιζητά να ζήσει μακριά από τους ανθρώπους και αναζητά τον θείο του ανάμεσα στους "Βουνίσιους" (mountain men) που ζούσαν σε εκείνη την περιοχή (στα δάση και στα ποτάμια) ασχολούμενοι κυρίως με το κυνήγι του κάστορα, του οποίου την γούνα εμπορεύοντας για λογαριασμό κάποιων μεγάλων Εταιρειών. Ο μεγαλύτερος κίνδυνος σε εκείνα τα μέρη πέρα από την ίδια την φύση ήταν οι διάφορες φυλές των Ινδιάνων με τους οποίους υπάρχει μια αρκετά ιδιότυπη συμβιωτική σχέση. "Ο Boone το μόνο που θέλει είναι κρέας με πάχος και μια καλή φωτιά και να είναι μακριά από τους ανθρώπους. Αυτό αρκεί, σκέφτηκε ο Boone. Τί άλλο να ζητήσει ο άνθρωπος, αρκεί να έχει κόκαλα με μεδούλι και μπόλικο κρέας στα πλευρά και μια φωτιά να τον κρατάει ζεστό και μια γη όπου να μπορεί τριγυρνάει ελεύθερα; Τί καλύτερο από ένα μέρος όπου κάθε μέρα μπορούσες να σκοτώνεις κι από έναν βούβαλο χωρίς ιδιαίτερο κόπο, κρατώντας για τον εαυτό σου τα καλύτερα κομμάτια, αφήνοντας τα υπόλοιπα για τους λύκους. Γιατί να θέλει κάτι περισσότερο, εκτός ίσως από μια καλή Ινδιάνα να ζει μαζί της στη σκηνή και να ξαπλώνει πλάι της, τη νύχτα;" Πολλοί αναγνώστες βρίσκουν τον ήρωα αντιπαθητικό, ωστόσο θεωρώ πως ο χαρακτήρας του, ο φαινομενικά απλοϊκός και βάρβαρος, διαθέτει μια μεγάλη δόση οξυδέρκειας (μαθαίνει να επιβιώνει, όσο αποξενώνεται από τον πολιτισμό και τους ανθρώπους τόσο περισσότερο γίνεται κομμάτι της φύσης και του περιβάλλοντός του) και μια καταπιεσμένη ευαισθησία, διψάει για αγάπη, αλλά αγνοεί τον τρόπο με τον οποίο αυτή θα μπορούσε εκφραστεί και να εκδηλωθεί (αυτό είναι το τρωτό του σημείο, η αιτία της δυστυχίας του και το αποτέλεσμα της φριχτής κακοποίησης που υπέστη ως παιδί στα χέρια του τυραννικού πατέρα του). Τον συμπάθησα γιατί, παρ' όλη την κτηνώδη φύση του, μοιάζει με φοβισμένο ζώο που επιτίθεται για να αμυνθεί και που αν το εξημερώσεις θα σταθεί στο πλευρό σου ως φίλος πιστός και αφοσιωμένος χωρίς ωστόσο να χάνει κάτι από την ουσία που συνιστά την αδάμαστη φύση του. Ένας χαρακτήρας που εκφράζεται κυρίως μέσα από τις πράξεις του οι οποίες συχνά απορρέουν από το ένστικτο και όχι τη λογική. Σκοτώνει για να ζήσει. Είτε αυτό αφορά ζώα είτε ανθρώπους. Η σχέση των λευκών με τους Ινδιάνους είναι, όπως προανέφερα, ιδιότυπη. Η κάθε φυλή έχει τους δικούς κανόνες και κώδικες συμπεριφοράς. Κάποιοι είναι πιο φιλικοί και συνεργάσιμοι κάποιοι άλλοι τελείως εχθρικοί. Βλέποντας τον τόπο τους να κατακτάται σταδιακά, αισθάνονται ταπεινωμένοι. Αναφέρει σε ένα σημείο ο αρχηγός της φυλής των Piegan έχοντας μόλις βιώσει των αφανισμό του λαού από μια φοβερή επιδημία: "Ο λευκός φέρνει ουίσκι. Κάνει τον Ινδιάνο να τρελαίνεται. Ο λευκός πλαγιάζει με τις γυναίκες του. Κουβαλάει αρρώστιες", είπε πιάνοντας με το χέρι του τον καβάλο του. "Η καρδιά του λευκού είναι κακή [...] Ο Ινδιάνος πολεμάει. Πολεμάει γενναία. Για να κρατήσει τον λευκό μακριά. Ο λευκός φέρνει μεγάλο δηλητήριο, μεγάλη αρρώστια. Σκοτώνει τον Ινδιάνο [...] Η καρδιά του Ινδιάνου είναι νεκρή. Νεκρή ανάθεμά την. Τώρα πια ο Ινδιάνος έπαψε να πολεμάει". Από την άλλη πλευρά οι λευκοί, γαλουχημένοι με διαφορετικές νοοτροπίες και ιδεώδη, συχνά αποτύγχαναν να κατανοήσουν τον Ινδιάνικο τρόπο σκέψης. Μια ενέργεια ή μια χειρονομία που στον δυτικό κόσμο έχει ένα ορισμένο αντίκτυπο για τους Ινδιάνους μπορεί να σημαίνει το τελείως αντίθετο: "Έτσι όπως είχε η κατάσταση δεν μπορούσες να έχεις εμπιστοσύνη στους Ινδιάνους, ακόμα κι αν ζούσες μαζί τους. Ήταν γεμάτοι έπαρση, όσο εύκολα ικανοποιούνταν άλλο τόσο εύκολα εξοργίζονταν και ξαφνικά αντιδρούσαν με τρόπους που ένας λευκός δεν μπορούσε να προβλέψει και για αιτίες που ούτε καν του περνούσαν από το μυαλό". Μια αδιάκοπη σύγκρουση πολιτισμών ανάμεσα σε ανθρώπους διαφορετικούς κάτω από έναν κοινό, τεράστιο γαλάζιο ουρανό. Το έργο είναι γεμάτο από σκηνές βίας και αγριότητας. Από την αφαίρεση των σκαλπ των νεκρών ως τρόπαιο για τον νικητή, μια τακτική όπου εφαρμοζόταν όχι μόνο από τους Ινδιάνους αλλά και από τους λευκούς και μάλιστα συχνά χρησίμευε και ως αντάλλάξιμο είδος, ως την ανθρωποφαγία (βρώση ανθρώπινων πτωμάτων για την ακρίβεια, σε περίπτωση ακραίων περιστάσεων). Και κάπου εκεί, καθώς οι κάστορες και οι βούβαλοι λιγοστεύουν επικίνδυνα και τα κέρδη μειώνονται από το εξαντλητικό κυνήγι, αρχίζει το όνειρο της κατάκτησης της απώτερης Δύσης. Πέρα από τα δύσβατα μονοπάτια των Βραχωδών Ορέων, ανοίγεται μια γη της Επαγγελίας. Η κατάκτηση του Όρεγκον και της Καλιφορνιας. Πλούσια γη για τους αγρότες και αρκετοί "άγριοι" που πρέπει να "εκπολιτιστούν" για τους μισιονάριους. Στα 1952 το έργο αυτό γυρίστηκε και ως ταινία με σκηνοθέτη τον Howard Hawks και πρωταγωνιστή τον Kirk Douglas η οποία δίνει μια εξαιρετική εικόνα των τοπίων που περιγράφονται στο βιβλίο και πλαισιώνεται αριστοτεχνικά από την μουσική του συνθέτη Dimitri Tiomkin. Η πρωταγωνίστρια που υποδύεται την Teal Eye (μια νεαρή Ινδιάνα της φυλής των Piegan που παίζει σπουδαίο ρόλο στη ζωή του κεντρικού ήρωα), η Elizabeth Threatt ήταν Ινδιάνα από την πλευρά της μητέρας της. Το μυθιστόρημα αυτό, παραμένει ακόμα και σήμερα αγαπημένο από τους Αμερικάνους. Παρ' όλο που ορισμένοι βλέπουν επικριτικά την επιλογή του συγγραφέα να αναπαράγει πιστά την ομιλία της εποχής στους διαλόγους (στην αρχή δεν καταλάβαινα τίποτα από όσα έλεγαν), συμπεριλαμβάνοντας διάφορες εκφράσεις που σήμερα θεωρούνται και είναι ακραία ρατσιστικές (πχ η χρήση της λέξης "νέγρος") θεωρώ πως πρόκειται για ένα έργο ιστορικά ακριβές και, ως τέτοιο, κρίνω πως η επιλογή του συγγραφέα υπήρξε έντιμη και ορθή καθώς δεν γράφτηκε για να προσβάλει αλλά για να προβάλει και να σκιαγραφήσει μια ορισμένη εποχή. Μάλιστα ανακάλυψα πως υπάρχει μια παλιά μετάφραση στα ελληνικά από έργο του Guthrie (πρόκειται για μια συντομευμένη έκδοση του δεύτερου τόμου της τριλογίας) που κυκλοφόρησε κάπου μέσα στη δεκαετία του 1950 ή 1960 από δύο διαφορετικούς εκδότες. Μεταφραστής είναι ο Καίσαρ Εμμανουήλ.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

    This book is a masterpiece, although it was Guthrie's second book, The Way West, that won the Pulitzer Prize. It was written in 1947 but doesn't get read much any more. A shame. Guthrie was appalled by the Western cowboy books that were being written. He wanted to write a novel that followed some of the first men to live in the harsh, lonely environment of the West. His work was carefully drawn from historical sources, journals, diaries, and numerous trips to the area. The characters in The Big S This book is a masterpiece, although it was Guthrie's second book, The Way West, that won the Pulitzer Prize. It was written in 1947 but doesn't get read much any more. A shame. Guthrie was appalled by the Western cowboy books that were being written. He wanted to write a novel that followed some of the first men to live in the harsh, lonely environment of the West. His work was carefully drawn from historical sources, journals, diaries, and numerous trips to the area. The characters in The Big Sky were not romanticized; mountain men were "hardened, cold and brutal people and their heroism was hidden within tedious, dirty, dangerous or even squalid events." The protagonist, Boone Caudill, was such a man. He left his Kentucky home at 17, fleeing an abusive father, and spent years crisscrossing the West. He was a trapper, a hunter, a loner, spending most of his time by himself or with one or two friends. Eventually he finds a Blackfoot squaw with whom he settles down for a time, but ends up leaving. Guthrie's prose is wonderful and you can feel the beauty as well as the dangers of the landscape. "The wind got to a man when he stood still, chilling his sweat and making him shiver beneath his skins. It filled him full; it blew into him through his eyes and nose and mouth and drove through his skin. It was something he didn't feel alone or hear alone but that he knew in every part of him as a man swimming would know the water." Boone could feel civilization pushing in on him and it saddened him. It's what we've all felt at one time or another, that, by our presence, we've destroyed the beauty which drew us there. This is a book that each generation should read again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tara Rock

    Truly a western Masterpiece. There was never an inclination to skip over those descriptive portions as they were majestic and so very vivid, bringing as much, if not more, to the story as did the endearing characters. Highly recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    RJ - Slayer of Trolls

    "It was good to tell stories sometimes and to hear stories told and to brag and to laugh over nothing and play horse while the whisky worked in you, and to have the good feeling in the back of your head all the time that when you were through talking and betting and drinking and wrestling there would be an Indian girl waiting for you; and, afterwards, you would lie quiet with her and hear the coyotes singing and the stream washing and see the stars down close and feel the warmth of her, and the "It was good to tell stories sometimes and to hear stories told and to brag and to laugh over nothing and play horse while the whisky worked in you, and to have the good feeling in the back of your head all the time that when you were through talking and betting and drinking and wrestling there would be an Indian girl waiting for you; and, afterwards, you would lie quiet with her and hear the coyotes singing and the stream washing and see the stars down close and feel the warmth of her, and the lonesomeness would be all gone, as if the world itself had come to set a spell with you." The first of Guthrie's six novels of the old west tells the story of 17 year-old Boone Caudill who leaves his family home in 1830s Kentucky to eventually become a mountain man and explore the territory that would become known as the Oregon Pass. The central character of the book is actually the unspoiled wilderness, which is lovingly described throughout the book by Guthrie, a Nieman Fellow from Harvard, who grew up in Teton County, Montana listening to the stories of local cowpokes and dreaming of days gone by. The frequent use of the "n-word" may be shocking, but appears to be accurately portrayed as a self-referential part of mountain man jargon. The Big Sky was adapted into a 1962 Howard Hawks movie, and "Big Sky Country" was used as a 1962 promotional slogan of the Montana State Highway Department.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I want to go to big sky country and I want to do it on horseback and I want to trap beaver and I want to hunt buffalo for food and shelter and I want to trade with Native Americans and I want it to be the 1800's...but that aint gonna happen so I just went ahead and read this book. I want to go to big sky country and I want to do it on horseback and I want to trap beaver and I want to hunt buffalo for food and shelter and I want to trade with Native Americans and I want it to be the 1800's...but that aint gonna happen so I just went ahead and read this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Loneliness And Freedom In The Old West The genre of the American Western has had a long history through dime and pulp novels and magazines, radio, television, and film, and novels and stories. Although much of the genre deals in stereotypes, many Westerns are thoughtful and imaginative, including A.B. Guthrie's 1947 novel, "The Big Sky". Guthrie (1901 -- 1991) wrote a series of six novels on the settlement of the Montana territory of which "The Big Sky" is the first chronologically and in the ord Loneliness And Freedom In The Old West The genre of the American Western has had a long history through dime and pulp novels and magazines, radio, television, and film, and novels and stories. Although much of the genre deals in stereotypes, many Westerns are thoughtful and imaginative, including A.B. Guthrie's 1947 novel, "The Big Sky". Guthrie (1901 -- 1991) wrote a series of six novels on the settlement of the Montana territory of which "The Big Sky" is the first chronologically and in the order of writing. It is a many-layered work in its themes and characterizations. The book cuts against many stereotypes of the West; and it cuts as well against current standards and thinking, both those of today and, to a degree, those when the book was written. Today's readers will want to reject the racist language of the book, most of which is in dialogue sections. There is much to be thought about and enjoyed in this book which will challenge and inspire a sympathetic reader. "The Big Sky" is set between 1830 -- 1843 in Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri, along the Missouri River, and particularly in the early Montana territory. The primary character, Boone Caudill, receives a complex portrayal as both anti-hero and hero. At the age of 17, Boone runs away from his poor farming family and from his abusive father to seek a life of freedom as a trapper in the West. Boone is a violent, unsociable loner and killer. He is portrayed realistically and sharply and in many sections of the book it is difficult to feel sympathy for him. Yet, Boone also is shown as living his own life and pursuing his dreams within his own lights in a manner given to few people. The other two major characters in the book are also mountain men. Jim Deakins, in his mid-20s, is good-natured and reflective. He becomes Boone's companion early in the story as the two head for the West. Dick Summers, a middle-aged mountain man, serves as mentor to Caudill and Deakins. Summers has had extensive experience in the West but he also has a stake in a more conventional society in his attitude and in his ownership of a small Missouri farm. The book follows the adventures and changing fortunes of Caudill, Deakins, and Summers, as they journey 2000 miles on the Missouri River on a keelboat and as they pursue the wild life of freedom in the Montana territory. The novel is stunning in its descriptions of the river and of the large lonely places, mountains, wildlife, and seasons of the West. The book is realistic in that the author makes clear the anti-social, to say the least, characters of the individuals who would choose to pursue and who excel in such a life. The characters are violent and mean in many respects and their life is hard, fragmented and lonely. The book offers an extended and on the whole sympathetic portrayal of the Indian tribes and of their battle with the weapons of the white settlers and with their illnesses of smallpox, alcoholism, and venereal disease. The primary Indian character is a beautiful young woman, Teal Eye, with whom Boone falls in love. With its violence and realism, "The Big Sky" is still strongly romantic. The author is clearly in love with place and has a nostalgia for a wildness which even in the late 1830s was fast disappearing. He also shares a love for his characters and for their quest for freedom which he contrasts with the life of suits and ties in jobs which lack feeling and in lives which lack passion. In many ways, the book is with Boone and his companions while recognizing their large weaknesses. In addition to its elements as a history, the book is a reflection on the nature of certain concepts of freedom and individualism which still retain their power to move people's minds and hearts. To my mind, the book probes these questions more convincingly than some more modern, much praised novels such as Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom". The book also includes a great deal of theological reflection offered by Jim Deakins which fits in well and enhances the context of this story of the old West and of freedom. The predominant tone is of secularism and humanism. "The Big Sky" is a thoughtful book as well as a yarn, a character study, and a history. Contemporary readers will struggle with the racist language of this book and with its ideas of freedom, individuality and sex which probably will not be entirely their own. It is a virtue in a book to make the reader think and to see different perspectives, whether the perspectives come from the past or from the future. I enjoyed this Western with the grandeur of its portrait of the West and with its portrayals of a rare, flawed and wild way of life. This is a book for reflective readers of American literature and for lovers of the West. Robin Friedman

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    I tried--truly I did. Guthrie is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this has been called his masterpiece. It's not badly written by any means, quite the contrary, but this is one of those books I find way too dark in terms of the characters--and I say that as someone that loved The Color Purple and The Kite Runner. But then, both those novels have very appealing protagonists you can root for, here the major character never seemed anything but despicable, not simply just a scoundrel like in Little Big M I tried--truly I did. Guthrie is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this has been called his masterpiece. It's not badly written by any means, quite the contrary, but this is one of those books I find way too dark in terms of the characters--and I say that as someone that loved The Color Purple and The Kite Runner. But then, both those novels have very appealing protagonists you can root for, here the major character never seemed anything but despicable, not simply just a scoundrel like in Little Big Man, and this novel lacks the leavening humor of that one. Set on the American frontier from 1830 to 1843, this novel is centered on Boone Caudill, who the introduction tells us, is destined to become a savage "mountain man." Problem is from the beginning there isn't anything very civilized about him. He leaves home at seventeen after punching out his abusive father and stealing his prize rifle, and his even more cherished razor strop--made from an Indian's scalp. Before he's eighteen he'll be collecting his own Indian scalps--and will have contracted "the clap" from a prostitute. Moreover, well more than half-way through the novel, the only female character of note, Teal Eye, a blackfoot tribe member, is practically mute. And the stereotypical, wince-worthy depiction of Native Americans didn't help, even if I make allowances for the filter of the white characters' perspective and that contemporary views might be overly romanticized. I mean, "heap?" And "how" as a greeting? Also, the narrative is frequently punctuated with the word "nigger." I'm not mentioning this because I'm accusing Guthrie of being racist, any more than Alice Walker or Toni Morrison or Mark Twain for that matter are guilty of being racist when using such words in fiction to depict character. It's rarely if ever used to even refer to blacks--apparently the "mountain men" often use it to refer to themselves. But it's one aspect of the novel that made this a tiresome and unpleasant read for me. There's not one character that engaged my sympathy or interest. Those who care far less about characters being likeable and have more tolerance for brutality and graphic violence might find this more enjoyable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adrian White

    An absolute classic of the American West. A flawed hero; an epic quest; a doomed love story. Violence, escape, redemption, survival. Without this book there would there could be no Lonesome Dove and no Blood Meridian - it really is that key a book. And looking back, it is the natural successor to the first half of Huckleberry Finn. No one book will ever capture the whole of what it is to be a part of the North American continent but this key novel comes as close as any that you care to name.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Likely first read this in the early 60s, on my bunk in an USAF barracks. Then, it would have received a 5-star rating. Read most of Guthrie's book thereafter, but after Way West, can't recall connecting with his characters. (My longest college essay probably springs from Guthrie, a comparative look how Blackfeet and Crow Indians interacted with the trappers.) Joseph Walker (non-fiction) now most dominates my memories of the Mountain Men. The Way West Westering Man: The Life of Joseph Walker Likely first read this in the early 60s, on my bunk in an USAF barracks. Then, it would have received a 5-star rating. Read most of Guthrie's book thereafter, but after Way West, can't recall connecting with his characters. (My longest college essay probably springs from Guthrie, a comparative look how Blackfeet and Crow Indians interacted with the trappers.) Joseph Walker (non-fiction) now most dominates my memories of the Mountain Men. The Way West Westering Man: The Life of Joseph Walker

  13. 4 out of 5

    Franky

    This is one of those books that started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. I really was hooked for the first two parts of The Big Sky. The novel opens with Boone Caudill, a teenager, running away from his abusive pap and trying to make it on his own out into the world. He has a series of adventures and episodes, meeting some foes, some allies, as he tries to find his footing away from home and out under the big sky. It at times almost felt like a Western version of Huckleberry Finn, with This is one of those books that started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. I really was hooked for the first two parts of The Big Sky. The novel opens with Boone Caudill, a teenager, running away from his abusive pap and trying to make it on his own out into the world. He has a series of adventures and episodes, meeting some foes, some allies, as he tries to find his footing away from home and out under the big sky. It at times almost felt like a Western version of Huckleberry Finn, with Boone running away and having to make it away from civilization much in the same way as Huck does in Twain’s novel. These moments, Guthrie really captures the essence and feel of high adventure and of the West. However, the book does not keep this momentum going. I think one of the aspects that I didn’t care for was, well, Boone. Starting with Part 3, and then beyond, he becomes less and less the intriguing character. While there is a slight character arc, as Boone does change, he seems to only changes for the worse. I’m not asking for an antihero to be warm and fuzzy, but there was an inconsequential aspect to his nature, something missing, that made me lose some interest in his fate or life journey. I actually felt like the co-stars of the novel, his two partners, Jim and Dick Summers, had more character depth. I suppose that Jim is somewhat of a contrast to Boone, but I guess this helps to balance these two characters out as the plot advances. Alongside this, and I know that this book is written from the perspective of the Old West, but there were too many problems with the depiction of other characters. The Native Americans are stereotyped to the lowest common denominator for the most part: the men are often wild, untamed, and drunk, and the women in the tribes only serve as vessels for Boone and his buddies’ lust. Moreover, the adventures of Boone and his buddies seem to get a tad repetitive, especially in the second half, which tends to drag and get muddled and meandering despite the many conflicts that consume Boone. Still, I did enjoy certain aspects of The Big Sky. The writing and description of nature, the great outdoors and certain points of the plot were picaresque and illustrative. Guthrie often puts the reader right there in time and place, under the Western skies. That being said, while Guthrie’s book certainly has the feel of a Western, and certainly presents the mythological aspect of “roughing it” and the creation of the mountain man, at the end of the day his main star, Boone Caudill, is somewhat lacking in substantiality, unless being irritable or ornery qualifies for character depth. Interesting read at points, but I do not think I’ll move on in the series.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    Read this in prep school. One of the better choices for teen-age males. As opposed to, say, "The Return of the Native" or "The Scarlet Letter." Starting tonight ... No time is wasted as Boone cold-cocks his abusive(what else) father and lights out for the territories. Huck Finn, Blood Meridian, J. F. Cooper's Natty Bumpo. Moving on up the Missouri on the "Mandan" ... and it's a gripping and violent ride. The west is well-described by the author. If you're going to write a book set in the west, you Read this in prep school. One of the better choices for teen-age males. As opposed to, say, "The Return of the Native" or "The Scarlet Letter." Starting tonight ... No time is wasted as Boone cold-cocks his abusive(what else) father and lights out for the territories. Huck Finn, Blood Meridian, J. F. Cooper's Natty Bumpo. Moving on up the Missouri on the "Mandan" ... and it's a gripping and violent ride. The west is well-described by the author. If you're going to write a book set in the west, you'd better be able to do the landscape and all the rest justice. I stayed up late last night because I didn't want to put this down. Great writing ... - The white westerners, like the native inhabitants, live lives much closer to basic animal survival than the "greenhorns" back east and in Europe. The portrayal of Summers is more excellence. - Beans! A forerunner to Blazing Saddles. - Technology is a big help to the whiteys! Guns! - A definite hint of "Heart of Darkness" is here. Many subsequent books set in the 19th c. west are tied to this one for sure. Last night the story jumped ahead to 1837 and Boone, Jim and Summers are still together. Boone shows his nasty violent streak in one intense scene. What might have become of him if he'd stayed back in Kentucky? Dead or in jail most likely. The west attracted a LOT of characters like him, especially after the Civil War. That's one reason why it was so violent I suppose. That plus the fact that everybody carried guns. Sound familiar? The story of the rapid alteration of the west continues to be the central theme. A harsh paradise being despoiled. The killing of a young female beaver is a jolting scene. A casual massacre of Indians is tossed off as if it were nothing. The attitude of many, if not most white people of the time was that they were simply an obstacle and needed to be removed. Once again a Native American chief questions why the white men have to take everything, kill everything. Capitalism, that's why! If killing beavers for their pelts makes you money, then kill as many beavers as you can find. Primitive, exploitative, carelessly destructive capitalism. This is a mostly great book that can be tough to read at times. A definite ancestor to "Blood Meridian." Finished up last night as Boone does the unthinkable and ruins several lives, including his own. No need to go on about the main theme of the book: an American white man Adam spoils his own paradise. He carried the seeds of his downfall within, nothing circumstantioal at all except for his inherited character. Capable of deep love, but deep violence as well. I wonder if the author intended any political commentary here. Boone the ultimate white, right-winger: solitary, paranoid, low on the "vision" thing, violent(he commits three out-and-out murders). Jim then is the lefty: the gift of gab, questioning the unfolding of life and the whole "God" thing, much more at home with others of his species. Just a thought ... - It's interesting to look at the author's treatment of Indians in this story. He doesn't have much to say one way or the other. The mountain men kill a lot of them and think little of it. The idea that they are invading the Indian's home seems to be not a problem. Peabody states the capitalist view of things succinctly. - Plenty of questing here - reminds of Tree of Smoke and The Laughing Monsters - seeking far off, un-visited places. - In addition th the killing(by weapons or disesae) of a lot of Indians, there's the killing of a lot of animals too. Boone pretty much wipes out a local population of Mountain Goats to insure to survival of himself and his friends. - The BIG scene reeks a bit of cardboard melodrama, but works anyway. - Time passes, things change, the past is gone ... with the wind. If you love the west this book gives a nice feel of what it was like before the white men arrived in force. They were on their way at the end of the book. The rest of the story is told in the five successive novels, including "The Way West" = # two in the series, for which Guthrie won a Pulitzer Prize. - BTW, as usual G'reads is saying that I've read this three times. NOPE! Only twice.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tom Mathews

    An excellent story of the life of the American mountain man of the early 19th century. The author grew up in the country around Choteau, Montana, where much of the action takes place and his writing shows it. It was remarkably easy to visualize the country that he is describing. The one thing I didn't care for was the author's frequent use of the n word in dialogue. Oddly, it was applied to characters without regard to their race and characters even used it when speaking about themselves (Ex: "T An excellent story of the life of the American mountain man of the early 19th century. The author grew up in the country around Choteau, Montana, where much of the action takes place and his writing shows it. It was remarkably easy to visualize the country that he is describing. The one thing I didn't care for was the author's frequent use of the n word in dialogue. Oddly, it was applied to characters without regard to their race and characters even used it when speaking about themselves (Ex: "This nigger couldn't hit a bull's hind-end with... etc.". As it was didn't appear to be used as a racial slur I decided to let it go but I still wasn't comfortable with it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This is a "classic" historical fiction of the western expansion. Boone flees his vengeful "Pa" and heads west. Things do not go smoothly. Along the way he meets Jim and the two of them set out. Along the way we will share with them a realistic look at everything from Keel-boats to foot travel. We'll hunt and we'll fight. We'll meet a range of characters. We'll learn to live as and look at the land as the "Indians" do. Yes the native Americans are called Indians here. I want to include in this revi This is a "classic" historical fiction of the western expansion. Boone flees his vengeful "Pa" and heads west. Things do not go smoothly. Along the way he meets Jim and the two of them set out. Along the way we will share with them a realistic look at everything from Keel-boats to foot travel. We'll hunt and we'll fight. We'll meet a range of characters. We'll learn to live as and look at the land as the "Indians" do. Yes the native Americans are called Indians here. I want to include in this review that the language of the time is used. This means it can be seen by today's readers as very non-PC. Let me give you a heads up that race is discussed as it would have been then...Indians vs. whites, the word squaw is common... As is the "N" word. You note that I won't even type it out to to inform you. I know that some will be offended or even hurt by the word being used even in a historical way. I get that. Be aware that it's used here (as it was then) in a more generic way and not as a reference to race. Still if it will bother you be aware of it. One of the key parts of the story here is that of the difference between the people who have come to regard the land as the "Indians" do and the ones who can only see the land as something to be divided up and owned. Boone is not a likeable character but the book is a trip into the past. Be aware of the language that could be found offensive and then decide. The book is well worth reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. I liked the beginning with Boone dealing with his Pap and running away from home and his trouble with the law. After that, though, it was hit or miss for me. Until the ending, which just sucked. Young Boone decides he's not gonna let Pap hit him anymore, so he steals his old man's rifle, takes a cooked chicken his mom gave him, and sets out for the American West. The rifle is stolen by a man he shares his camp with and later Boone finds the man and There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. I liked the beginning with Boone dealing with his Pap and running away from home and his trouble with the law. After that, though, it was hit or miss for me. Until the ending, which just sucked. Young Boone decides he's not gonna let Pap hit him anymore, so he steals his old man's rifle, takes a cooked chicken his mom gave him, and sets out for the American West. The rifle is stolen by a man he shares his camp with and later Boone finds the man and starts a fight with him to get the rifle back, but ends up in jail for attempted robbery. Once out, he gets to the Rocky Mountains and becomes a mountain man. There are some adventures, some good and some bad, and a long search for a young Indian girl he wants to marry and finally does. More bad stuff happens. Boone isn't a very likable character. For a while Guthrie balances this by switching the point of view to two of his companions, but that really just seems to interrupt the flow of the story, and with Dick Summers there's just way too much introspection, bogging down the plot until you're begging for Boone to get mad and kill somebody before you do it yourself. Bottom line, it isn't a bad book. But it wasn't good enough to make me want to read the two sequels, either.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    I have not read much fiction set in the old American West. In fact I believe the only other book set in that place and time that I have read is McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. But as I plan to read Guthrie's Pulitzer winning book The Way West soon, I decided to read this one first. I am glad that I did. Although I loved McMurtry's book more I did enjoy this one as well. It felt very real to me. It transported me to the era and I believed everything I read. However, I didn't connect with Boone nearly a I have not read much fiction set in the old American West. In fact I believe the only other book set in that place and time that I have read is McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. But as I plan to read Guthrie's Pulitzer winning book The Way West soon, I decided to read this one first. I am glad that I did. Although I loved McMurtry's book more I did enjoy this one as well. It felt very real to me. It transported me to the era and I believed everything I read. However, I didn't connect with Boone nearly as much as I did with the stars of McMurtry's show. I found Boone harder to reach and more difficult to love.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Before Lonesome Dove and All the Pretty Horses, A. B. Guthrie's The Big Sky was the go-to novel of the American West. Those who want a gritty and realistic portrayal of the characters and environment that made up the frontier at that time need look no further. Sink your teeth into The Big Sky and at the end when you hunger for more, pick up book two, The Way West, which won Guthrie the Pulitzer Prize. Before Lonesome Dove and All the Pretty Horses, A. B. Guthrie's The Big Sky was the go-to novel of the American West. Those who want a gritty and realistic portrayal of the characters and environment that made up the frontier at that time need look no further. Sink your teeth into The Big Sky and at the end when you hunger for more, pick up book two, The Way West, which won Guthrie the Pulitzer Prize.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cradymc

    This is perhaps the best western that I've ever read. From the wonderfully flawed protagonist to the sprawling landscapes and an incredible story, "The Big Sky" is without a doubt one of the great forgotten novels. This is perhaps the best western that I've ever read. From the wonderfully flawed protagonist to the sprawling landscapes and an incredible story, "The Big Sky" is without a doubt one of the great forgotten novels.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This is certainly not a book for a modern audience. It was written in the mid-1940s and utilizes the N-word on nearly every page! It surprised me the author found the word so necessary when only a few of the characters were black. It is a very unique telling of mountain men and their interaction with Indian Tribes during the 1830s and 1840s. The language is difficult to follow at times. Both the dialogue and the narrations follow a rustic homespun jargon. The plot and flow of the story often get This is certainly not a book for a modern audience. It was written in the mid-1940s and utilizes the N-word on nearly every page! It surprised me the author found the word so necessary when only a few of the characters were black. It is a very unique telling of mountain men and their interaction with Indian Tribes during the 1830s and 1840s. The language is difficult to follow at times. Both the dialogue and the narrations follow a rustic homespun jargon. The plot and flow of the story often gets muddled. Some of the terms and paragraphs, however, are lyrical and oddly poetic. In describing the mountain winds the author wrote; It came keen off the great high snow fields, wave on wave of it, tearing at a man, knocking him around, driving at his mouth and nose so that he could not breathe in or out and had to turn his head and gasp to ease the ache in his lungs. A bitter stubborn wind that stung the face and watered the eye and bent the horses’ heads and whipped the tails straight out behind them. A fierce, sad wind, crying in a crazy tumble of mountains that the Indians told many a tale about, tales of queer doings and spirit people and medicine strong and strange. The feel of it got into a man sometimes as he pushed deep into these dark hills, making him wonder, putting him on guard against things he couldn’t lay his tongue to, making him anxious, in a way, for all that he didn’t believe the Indian’s stories. The descriptions of the land are equally magnificent; however, I am largely undecided about this book. For all the brilliant word play there were long stretches of unnecessary descriptions and little action. I do not feel the lead female character was developed enough and the lead character was not especially likeable. He saw women as an unnecessary distraction. I do not agree with the ultimate conclusion he reached that masculine fulfillment could only be found among male companionship and a free but harsh frontier existence. All in all, I am glad I read this book but I am not sure I would recommend it to others.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    This story appeals to my sense of adventure, my love of open country and my affection for a time and people now gone. The opening is a bit harsh for some readers and the end left me troubled for a time. I am often visited by the beautiful imagery of this book and its many lessons.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Amazing, incredible, beautiful book. Guthrie's images are stunning, his characters authentic and absorbing.... the book just incredibly powerful. One of the greatest books I have ever read! Amazing, incredible, beautiful book. Guthrie's images are stunning, his characters authentic and absorbing.... the book just incredibly powerful. One of the greatest books I have ever read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I liked this story much more than I liked The Way West. I liked this story much more than I liked The Way West.

  25. 5 out of 5

    blake

    This is a well-written tale of the life of a mountain man named Boone Caudill. Fleeing his drunken, abusive father in Kentucky at the age of 17, he makes his way to the Missouri River in search of his uncle. Along the way he meets some good guys and some bad guys, and transforms from a naive kid to a powerful frontiersman, not just able to live off the land but preferring it to cities full of people. The one constant in his life is his love of the outdoors. There's an improbable love story here, This is a well-written tale of the life of a mountain man named Boone Caudill. Fleeing his drunken, abusive father in Kentucky at the age of 17, he makes his way to the Missouri River in search of his uncle. Along the way he meets some good guys and some bad guys, and transforms from a naive kid to a powerful frontiersman, not just able to live off the land but preferring it to cities full of people. The one constant in his life is his love of the outdoors. There's an improbable love story here, of young Boone on the boat up the Missouri with a French trapper whose goal is to make peace with the hostile Blackfoot Indians. The French man has rescued the chief's daughter from another tribe and figures to use that as an entree into trading with the—let's call them "intolerant", in the parlance of our times—Blackfoot, and Boone takes a real liking to the young squaw. Interjecting here: if you have a problem with "the N-word", again to use the parlance of our times, this is not the book for you. One of the main characters of the book uses it constantly to refer to himself. It confused me because he's white in our modern sense of the word (though there are some creoles) but it's much interchangeable with "soul" or "body" as in "A body don't cotton to that." Toward the end of the book, the phrase "a genuine black-skinned n****r" is used. Also, what constituted white was different back then, I know. (It wasn't very long ago that Italians and Spanish—any Mediterranean—didn't necessarily constitute "white" in the common usage.) But early on the author talks about the river not being fit for a white man...only Indians and the French. It wouldn't surprise me if the French weren't considered white at some point but this is the first I can recall hearing that. Back to our story: Our hero is separated from his young squaw, and gets it in his mind that he's going to find her and ask for her hand from her father. His relationship with her (real and imagined) is the closest we get to any kind of sentimentality, which is no coincidence. A real mountain man has to be happy alone, and when he's with people he's probably not going to relate to them in the normal ways. Which gets to the nature and point of the whole story. It's a biography, basically. A slice-of-life spanning 13 years or so. As such, it doesn't have a powerful driving force behind the narrative. You'll have to enjoy the writing, which is relatively dense for the period (1940s) and chock-full of colloquialisms in the very spread-out sections of dialogue. There are some ripsnorting action scenes. Part IV is a grueling tale of survival and suspense, the most riveting in the book. However, it's a "serious" book, that's a character study and a period piece—the author would win the Pulitzer a few years later. And that may be why it's kind of a downer, as well. I'd give it five stars, except I think it could've been tighter for the story, I didn't care much for the ending, and the story doesn't end so much as the author just stopped typing. But it's quality writing and well worth the time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    The Big Sky centers around Boone Caudill, a young man from Kentucky, escaping the abuse of his father. He not only seeks the life of the frontier, he seeks to define himself. We follow his adventure to St. Louis, and further into the wild frontier, up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers into the heart of present day Montana. Its a land of Indians, Buffler (Buffalo) and beavers. Along the way, we meet among others, Jim, Dick Summers, Deakins, Jourdannais and the young Indian Squaw, Teal Eye. This The Big Sky centers around Boone Caudill, a young man from Kentucky, escaping the abuse of his father. He not only seeks the life of the frontier, he seeks to define himself. We follow his adventure to St. Louis, and further into the wild frontier, up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers into the heart of present day Montana. Its a land of Indians, Buffler (Buffalo) and beavers. Along the way, we meet among others, Jim, Dick Summers, Deakins, Jourdannais and the young Indian Squaw, Teal Eye. This book is a graphic look at the realities of the time, for those who ventured out to these lands, as well as those who were native. The writing is lush, but there is no sugar coating the brutality of Indian raids, sickness, harsh weather and friends betrayal. This is a book I never would have read had it not been voted tops in a group read poll of the...Pulp Fiction reading group! Fancy that. I am now looking forward to the second book in the trilogy, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Way West.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gertzman

    Guthrie wrote five novels about the Mountains Men of the earlier and mid-19th century. Dick Somers is a leading guide and explorer of the land west of the Missouri before the genocide of Manifest Destiny. His knowledge, helpfulness, and idealism are a beautiful thing. He has taken an Indian wife, and has a child by her. One of the questions Guthrie asks is -- is Somers' rough-edged but finely attuned gentleness realistic? what is his fate? you need to read Fair Land to find out--right to the end Guthrie wrote five novels about the Mountains Men of the earlier and mid-19th century. Dick Somers is a leading guide and explorer of the land west of the Missouri before the genocide of Manifest Destiny. His knowledge, helpfulness, and idealism are a beautiful thing. He has taken an Indian wife, and has a child by her. One of the questions Guthrie asks is -- is Somers' rough-edged but finely attuned gentleness realistic? what is his fate? you need to read Fair Land to find out--right to the end. He has the enigmatic last word. His opposite--his nemesis--is Boone (named after Daniel B) Caudill, a tough, independent, solitary, misanthropic, incredibly brave and resourceful force of nature. If the word anarchist is valid for someone without any politics, Boone is anarchistic. And his career, his suffering, and his response to conscience is fascinating. Extreme individualism is a better description altho anarchist fits also. Murderer is also accurate, and it is a soul-destroying one, if this force of nature even has a soul in the sense we ccould define that entity. The descriptions of the beauty, danger, emptiness, and violence in the Big Sky country are totally remarkable and IMO one of the best achievements in American fiction. And when you think about the fates of Boone and Dick, you will not stop! What a great writer and scholar of the American west Guthrie was--that must be why the book was even published in 1947, despite its sexual explicitness.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marigold

    I found this book at a "dump store" in Canada. I never expected a Western novel to blow me away with exquisite colloquial prose and intelligent monologue discourse on what it is to be under a free sky, to be old, or to be doubting God. I've been out West in the Yellowstone/Teton area where some of this novel is set, and the landscape descriptions brought me back and reminded me of the earth that rolls on forever as far as the eye can see. The history comes alive and presents a solid perspective I found this book at a "dump store" in Canada. I never expected a Western novel to blow me away with exquisite colloquial prose and intelligent monologue discourse on what it is to be under a free sky, to be old, or to be doubting God. I've been out West in the Yellowstone/Teton area where some of this novel is set, and the landscape descriptions brought me back and reminded me of the earth that rolls on forever as far as the eye can see. The history comes alive and presents a solid perspective on that time that is brimming over with details, realistic gritty life (such as STIs and wiping sticks and horrid disease) never mincing about or asking forgiveness. I learned a lot from this book, a lot of context for the time sidling up to America's manifest destiny. The Injuns are not presented as a nobler-than-thou people. I don't want to spoil the plot, so I will only say a little more. The story moving through time covers a magnificent array of adventures. Near the tragic end, I cried and had to push myself to read the last bit of book. The gritty realism does not let up. This is a book that will stay with you, that you will want to read pieces aloud to your family, that you will revisit later in your mind as a grand adventure you had and deep thoughts you shared with the characters. Amazing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve O'Keefe

    This book appeals so much to my (entirely unrealistic) ideas of how much I would have enjoyed pioneer life and exploring the American frontier. Nearly the entire novel takes place outside in the wide open spaces of the uninhabited (by white folks, anyways) territories in what would eventually become the western United States. The "mountain men" the story follows are simple in both their lifestyle and desires. They live amongst nothing but nature's majesty for the majority of the year, allowing t This book appeals so much to my (entirely unrealistic) ideas of how much I would have enjoyed pioneer life and exploring the American frontier. Nearly the entire novel takes place outside in the wide open spaces of the uninhabited (by white folks, anyways) territories in what would eventually become the western United States. The "mountain men" the story follows are simple in both their lifestyle and desires. They live amongst nothing but nature's majesty for the majority of the year, allowing the land to provide everything they need. What little they cannot pull from the earth itself (basically just ball, powder, whiskey, and women), they trade for with beaver pelts and other trappings at annual palavers with the trading outposts that are stubbornly taking hold along the major waterways. The imagery is beautiful and is truly the star character in this book. It is a constant figure, always ready to awe with Guthrie's beautiful and descriptive prose. The few times the book steers us indoors, we feel claustrophobic and full of desire to burst outside the confines of the walls to be back under the big sky.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    This was ok and thus given a 2 star rating. The use of the N-word and GD was used so heavy throughout the book that it took away from the story. I understand that this was written awhile back, but the use of these two/three words tainted the entire story. I struggled with the main character and how dark his was. Looking back after listening to all 11 discs in this audio book I really do not like the main character and I think I stuck with the entire story hoping that he would change. The strengt This was ok and thus given a 2 star rating. The use of the N-word and GD was used so heavy throughout the book that it took away from the story. I understand that this was written awhile back, but the use of these two/three words tainted the entire story. I struggled with the main character and how dark his was. Looking back after listening to all 11 discs in this audio book I really do not like the main character and I think I stuck with the entire story hoping that he would change. The strengths of this book are in the setting. A.B Guthrie Jr. does a wonderful job in both the time period and describing the land around the characters. I could see the scenes that he describe in great detail and felt what certain individuals were going through in the environment(s) that they were having to deal with. Not sure if I would recommend this book to anyone though as there are better westerns out there.

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