Returning to the big Western themes that have made him famous and beloved, McMurtry recreates the bygone days of the old gunfighters in a panoramic, sweeping novel told in the voice of Nellie Courtright, a courageous young woman.Returning to the big Western themes that have made him famous and beloved, McMurtry recreates the bygone days of the old gunfighters in a panoramic, sweeping novel told in the voice of Nellie Courtright, a courageous young woman.Read Less
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I was surprised, when I read this book, at how truly boring it was, given the good reviews it had received. I am guessing that the reviewers were reminiscing more on the quality of McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' than on the quality of the writing in this particular novel.
The book began well enough, and the main character of Nellie started off full of mouth and grit. However, there was no character development, the woman's mouth and spunk became annoying over time and the character remained shallow. There were so many places that McMurtry could have taken this character - but as a man writing from a woman's perspective, McMurtry took her to the place where so many men want a woman to be - having promiscuous sexual dalliances and cleaning up men's messes.
There was no recognizable plot, with the narrative appearing simply to be a forum for McMurtry to "name drop" every cowboy or outlaw hero from that period of the west, from Buffalo Bill to Wild Bill. The author overstretched himself in places simply to include a famous character (e.g. Jesse James or Billy the Kid) whose presence did nothing to further develop or improve upon the story.
About 2/3 through the book it becomes abundantly clear that McMurtry has become as sick of the character of Nellie as the reader has, and he ups the pace, skipping years and even decades with the flourish of a pen where initially the pace of the narrative was measured and slow. Characters who could have had some importance to the story are named once and forgotten, and only those with a name worth dropping are discussed further.
I kept waiting for something to happen. It didn't. The ending did nothing to round off the story. The final chapter simply ended like any other chapter - I turned the page, having no indication from the author that this was the end, and there was simply nothing more. I admit to feeling disappointed that I wasted my time reading toward something epic, as the book had initially seemed to promise - and that something even mildly fascinating never came.
May 6, 2008
Shallow, trite and clichéd, Telegraph Days is another disappointment from an author whose work is becoming increasingly suspect . Though apparently intended as a western ?spoof,? this brief and light novel reads like a bad romance novel.
The plot, such as it is, has chatty, perky, sexy and indomitable Nellie sleeping her way across the west. Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, George Custer are all conquests by the lovely, brilliant 23-year-old woman whose sensibilities are about 100 years ahead of her time. If the coincidences weren?t bad enough, the men are all one dimensional simpering idiots while the heroic womenfolk suffer them not-so-silently. I guess it?s supposed to be comedy, but?
With the all-too-familiar McMurtry heroine and a slew of western name-dropping, Mr. McMurtry has apparently resorted to writing parodies of himself. Frankly, this would?ve been a bad Harlequin. From the author who wrote Lonesome Dove, it?s just sad.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-03-06 McMurtry's latest skips through western lore with a wry smile. Marie Antoinette "Nellie" Courtright and her brother, Jackson, bereft of family after their Virginia clan dies off one by one, arrive in Rita Blanca in 1876, in what would become the Oklahoma Panhandle, to remake themselves. Jackson is made a deputy sheriff and Nellie takes over the telegraph office. In short order, Jackson shoots down an entire gang of outlaws, and Nellie promptly writes it up to launch a lucrative literary career. Other adventures await: she becomes manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, boldly faces down Jesse James's attempt to rob her and witnesses the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. She becomes mayor of Rita Blanca, a mother of six and, later, friends with Lillian Gish and William B. Mayer. Beautiful and sexually insatiable, Nellie is a witty, sophisticated, accomplished, cunning, impudent and highly improbable woman-more than a match for any man she meets, which isn't saying much, since they're all idiots. She also is little more than a reworking of several previous McMurtry heroines, especially The Berrybender Narratives' Tasmin. This tale is contrived, episodic and lacks cohesion, and its constant comedy is self-conscious. But most readers won't be able to help cracking a smile over McMurtry's 38th book, as purposely over-the-top as an episode of South Park. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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