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Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming’

This book is the first in a series featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire, and set in Absaroka County, Wyoming.  Walt has to investigate when Cody Pritchard, who was one of four young men who committed a serious sexual assault on a young Native American girl, is killed.  Together with his friend, Henry Standing Bear, who is also the uncle of the young girl; and his deputy, the foul-mouthed but efficient Vic Moretti, Walt tries to figure out who killed Cody, and to stop further acts of violence.

I enjoyed this book a lot, mainly because I adored the characters of Walt and Henry.  Walt narrates the novel, and he is an engaging, compassionate and witty narrator.  Henry is calculating, intelligent, and fiercely loyal to his friend, and both characters were very well developed.  I also liked Vic Moretti, who despite railing against everything and everybody, shows her dedication to her job and her boss.

The police investigate the case methodically, and more through good old fashioned instint and sleuthing, rather than the use of hi-tech forensics, or incredible coincidence, and this appealed to me.  The ending was a surprise, but in retrospect, it made sense.

If I had any criticism, I would say that it was the large amount of the novel given over to explanations of the different types of guns used in the story, and the amount of time taken to explain the geography of Absaroka County (possibly because I find it hard to carry such descriptions in my mind).  But I’m probably nitpicking.  Overall, the characters are relatable and believable, and the story does keep you guessing.  I will definitely be reading the further novels in this series.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

 

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This books takes narrative liberties to tell the true story of a real Wyoming cowboy, Colton H. Bryant.  Born in 1980 to a loving and close family, Colton is often teased in childhood for his short attention span and simple outlook, but he never loses his love of life and grows up to be a decent and kind husband, father, brother and son.  With stunning blue eyes and a truly beautiful soul, Colton becomes one of Wyoming’s favourite sons, but as he and his friends grow up, reality bites and he starts working on one of Wyoming’s Oil Rigs, a dirty and dangerous job, but the only option for many young men in the area.

The book tells Colton’s life in a series of short vignettes and ‘snapshots’ from his youth and adulthood.  It is mostly told in short chapters (about 3 – 5 pages long) and through these chapters, we not only get to know Colton, but also his family, best friend Jake and wife Melissa.  (His family and friends were completely open and honest with Fuller in describing his life.)

This book made me cry – and that isn’t something that happens very often when I’m reading (I love to read, and books often make me laugh, but rarely do they make me cry).  Alexandra Fuller’s writers is incredible – beautiful, evocative and poetic.  This is an author who can bring such emotion to the reader.  She finds the hero in Colton, and really made me feel for this sweet young man, in a way that I almost didn’t even realise until tragedy hits in his story.  At times, I found myself re-reading passages simply because the writing was so lovely.

Despite the harsh life for many people in Wyoming – which is perfectly illustrated, Fuller makes the place – and its people – incredibly interesting, and it’s clear that despite hating the greedy oil companies who have taken over so much of the area – she has a deep affection and love for the place.

I adored this book, and getting to know Colton, his family and friends.  It’s a story that won’t leave me for a long time, and I would highly recommend this book to just about anybody.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the Annie Proulx’s second collection of short stories set in Wyoming.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the first one (Close Range), but this one was a far better read, and I could understand all the acclaim which Annie Proulx has received.

There are eleven stories in this collection, and a number of them are set in Elk Tooth, Wyoming, a small town with a population of around 80 people, so almost inevitably, certain characters pop up in two or more of the stories.

Proulx masterfully conjures up an image of the tough but beautiful land and the hard life of it’s inhabitants – mainly cowboys, ranchers and their families.  From whimsical tales about beard growing contests and a craze for crudely fashioned hot tubs, to tales of rough justice being served, these are stories which though short, never fail to flesh out their characters.  Many of the tales are almost like modern day fables, with a sting in the tale.  My personal favourites were Dump Junk with it’s supernatural twist, and The Contest (concerning the aforementioned beard growing contest).  Plenty of moments of wry humour too.

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I was really hoping to enjoy this collection of short stories, but sadly, I was glad to finish it.

There are eleven short stories in this collection, all set in Wyoming, and all centred around cowboys, ranch hands and their wives and families and the tough lives they lead in unforgiving conditions.

The stand out story in this collection is definitely Brokeback Mountain (although the film is better, and there’s not many book/film adaptations I say that about)! Brokeback Mountain and another story – The Bushgrass Edge of the World – were the two I did enjoy – and which saved the collection as far as I am concerned – but the others were so-so.

However, the author did a splendid job of capturing the bleak and barren setting of the book, which compares nicely with the bleak and empty lives of most of her characters.

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Click here for my review of the movie 2005 ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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This is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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