11 January 2010

Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall

Just finished reading Legends of the Fall last night - and have to say I was really impressed.  A friend of mine had recommended I pick it up back in September, and for one reason or another I haven't had the chance to read it since then.

The book consists of three novellas: The Man Who Gave Up His Name, Revenge, and Legends of the Fall.  I was surprised after picking it up that there was more than one story, and even more surprised after finishing that Legends of the Fall was the weakest story among the three.

Harrison does a great job in the book utilizing language to weave together stories with description that could have easily been 300 pages for each story rather than the full book.  The style, as much as the story itself, was totally captivating - at least in the first two stories.

I'm not entirely sure why Legends of the Fall didn't interest me as much, but I had a much more difficult time finishing it.  Admittedly, part of it might have been the timing (I finished the first two novellas over Christmas and have been squeezing Legends in after work).

I think it's weakest point is that the protagonist isn't fully revealed until halfway through the narrative, and at that point you've lost out on his lead-in because you weren't entirely sure it was relevant.  The setting also changes frequently enough that it's much more difficult to picture where he is.

The book as a whole was the kind you keep on a shelf and read it every two years or so - if nothing else, it's a great lesson in how powerfully words can be molded to create a great story.

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