Book Review: All The Pretty Horses

all_the_pretty_horses I picked up All The Pretty Horses when I thought I was going to be heading to Mexico for the winter.

I wanted to start with a novel that had a historical bent to it so I could work my way forward in my Mexican book reading. Set in the year straddling 1949 and 1950 it meets the historical criteria I was looking for without delving too far back in time.

It’s a western, with an austere feeling. That isn’t to say there isn’t lack of detail (in fact I might say just the opposite) but I really got the feeling of being in the middle of the open range in northern Mexico.

The story traces the path of the main character John Grady as his Texan family buries their patriarch and he discovers that the family ranch will be sold. He meets up with his friend Lacey Rawlins, inexplicably picks up the runaway drifter Blevins and the three of them cross the border into Mexico with a half assed plan of working as migrant cowboys.

What follows is a tale of mishaps, with serious consequences, a love story, also with serious consequences, and a friendship that barely endures the outcome.

I liked it, and didn’t like it. I picked it up, and put it down, and picked it up, and put it down.

The dialogue was not well punctuated and I often had to reread passages to understand who was speaking, because it kind of made a difference to the story.

Some of the dialogue was in Spanish, but not all of it. I liked the effect of being reminded that, although the book is written in English, the story actually takes place in Spanish. It gave me a chance to practice what little I know of the language and yet, even if I couldn’t figure it out, the context was clear enough to continue.

It really gave me a sense of the difficulty of living such a life. The uncertainty of employment, the barrenness of the landscape, the reliance on friends and the tenuous nature of those same friendships. I’m fascinated with the idea of homesteading and ranching, of relying only on ones-self and having to get by. This book painted that picture for me.

Am I glad I read it? Yes, I am. Would I recommend it? If you’re interested in Mexico, or the southern United States, at all I think it’s worth reading. There maybe a border separating the two countries but this book shows that a border is just an arbitrary line and that life is the same on either side.