All the Pretty Horses
"The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood"
I’ve read a couple of Cormac McCarthy’s novels, namely No Country for Old Men and The Road, both times after watching and loving the film adaptations, so for the past while I’ve been desperate to pick up some more of his books and explore more of his writing…unfortunately I think I may have picked the wrong book to start with.
All the Pretty Horses tells the story of john Grady Cole, a young man who, after losing the claim to his family farm, rides off with his friend Rawlins, in the direction of Mexico where they end up working on a ranch breaking horses before Cole gets involved with the owner’s daughter and things go south quickly.
I simply couldn’t get into this book at all and despite it’s fairly short length, I struggled to get through it.
That said, it’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what it was I didn’t like about it. McCarthy’s writing is solid, even if his aversion to traditional punctuation can make the book hard to read at times. The story too, while not the most original in the world, is well told and there were several moments in the book I really liked.
Maybe it was the characters, who I just never really fell in love with. As a pair, Cole and Rawlins have some great dialogue and many of my favourite scenes were of those two just riding and chatting, on his own though, Cole feels really bland, there’s nothing that really drew me to him.
His relationship with Alejandra, the rancher’s daughter is the same, I just never cared, and when everything came to blows and the two cowboys found themselves in prison, I didn’t feel any strong desire to see him get out and back to his lady love.
By far the best thing about the book is Blevins, the thirteen year old horse thief who tags along as Cole and Rawlins cross the border. The three of them together made for some great scenes, with Blevins trying to prove how tough he is despite being a kid, Rawlins’ obvious dislike for the boy and Cole’s role as a mediator between them. These parts were great and I could happily have read an entire novel of the three riding together. As it stands though, his contribution to the novel is all too brief.
All the Pretty Horses is the first book in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, the second book deals with an unrelated story with a new main character and book three sees Cole and the main character meet on a ranch years later. Despite my disappointment with this book, I’m still interested in continuing on with the trilogy and I look forward to checking out more McCarthy, but I highly doubt I’ll be returning to this one any time soon.