Either this is the classic of American literature that people say it is, or it's a bloated, essentially characterless, thinly-plotted, portrait masquerading as a novel. I'm not sure, so no stars, but it's probably both. One thing I do know is that reading this novel was an ordeal in almost every sense of the word, no doubt intended by the author, which is why it's hard to recommend. It's unlike anything I've ever read. There are characters, but they remain essentially faceless throughout. There is gory violence on virtually every page as the narrative meanders through the starkly beautiful epic landscape of the American west circa 1870s. The mountains, plains and deserts are in fact the only relatable character, and they are rendered in a language that is lushly gorgeous and draws attention to itself with jargon and syntax that is almost biblical - echoing a biblical/religious subtext and theme throughout. I have no doubt that this depiction of the bloodlust, brutality and immorality that characterized the conquest of the American frontier is closer to the truth than anything that has been written before, or perhaps since. So is the novel important? I guess so. But unless an ordeal is what you're looking for in a novel and one without characters to relate to, and very little in the way of plot or redemption, I can't recommend it.
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