Cormac McCarthy is the author of ten acclaimed novels, most recently The Road. Among his honours are the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
This is a novel so exuberant in its prose, so offbeat in its setting and so mordant and profound in its deliberations that one searches in vain for comparisons in American literature. None of McCarthy's previous works, not even the award-winning The Orchard Keeper (1965) or the much-admired Blood Meridian (1985), quite prepares the reader for the singular achievement of this first installment in the projected Border Trilogy. John Grady Cole is a 16-year-old boy who leaves his Texas home when his grandfather dies. With his parents already split up and his mother working in theater out of town, there is no longer reason for him to stay. He and his friend Lacey Rawlins ride their horses south into Mexico; they are joined by another boy, the mysterious Jimmy Blevins, a 14-year-old sharpshooter. Although the year is 1948, the landscape--at some moments parched and unforgiving, at others verdant and gentled by rain--seems out of time, somewhere before history or after it. These likable boys affect the cowboy's taciturnity--they roll cigarettes and say what they mean--and yet amongst themselves are given to terse, comic exchanges about life and death. In McCarthy's unblinking imagination the boys suffer truly harrowing encounters with corrupt Mexican officials, enigmatic bandits and a desert weather that roils like an angry god. Though some readers may grow impatient with the wild prairie rhythms of McCarthy's language, others will find his voice completely transporting. In what is perhaps the book's most spectacular feat, horses and men are joined in a philosophical union made manifest in the muscular pulse of the prose and the brute dignity of the characters. ``What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them,'' the narrator says of John Grady. As a bonus, Grady endures a tragic love affair with the daughter of a rich Spanish Hacendado , a romance, one hopes, to be resumed later in the trilogy. (May)
Before this beautifully written novel, McCarthy's sixth and most accessible, won last year's National Book Award and became a best seller, its author was one of the least known of great American novelists. It is a simple story (the first in a trilogy) of three Texas youths whose flight to Mexico on horseback in 1949 traverses far more than geographical borders, marking a descent into the deeper forces of friendship, love, and cruelty. Its style owes an enormous debt to Hemingway, but it pays that debt with interest. That its laconic hero, John Grady Cole, proves resourceful beyond his years (and almost beyond belief) places the novel in the tradition of classic Westerns, but never has any Western been so well told. The novel's moral logic and McCarthy's mystique of ``blood'' are questionable, but there is poignancy in Cole's yearning to touch something in horses that has passed from the race of men, to find a depth of wisdom that can only come with age, and, like most of McCarthy's people, to escape what is deadly in modern American life. The unabridged version is one of the best recorded books to date, for Frank Muller's narration is such a perfect model of balance and control that it deserves an award in itself. In the Random House abridgment, film actor Brad Pitt simply doesn't compare. With a superb complete version on the market, there is no reason to settle for anything less.-- Peter Josyph, New York
A darkly shining work . . . executed with consummate skill and much subtlety - the effect is magnificent -- John Banville * Observer *
An exhilarating, exceptional novel * Spectator *
In a single stride it takes McCarthy to the forefront of contemporary American fiction. All the Pretty Horses is indisputably a masterpiece. * Financial Times *