In 2013 I read lots of books. This was the year when I started my short stint in the world of bookselling. The staff discount and the continual demand for book recommendations led me to pick up many books that were outside my comfort zone.
The Son by Philipp Meyer is one such book. Here are the reasons why I normally would pass it by; it is very long, it is a sequel, it is set in the wild west and it is a family saga, Yawn. However by the end of 2013 I was announcing that The Son was my favourite book of the year. (FYI I have not read the first instalment of Meyers work American Rust but it is on my TBR list).
A house divided
The Son is centred around three characters Eli, Peter and Jeannie McCullough. They are many generations of one family dynasty, all influenced by the life of patriarch Eli for better or for worse. The book sweeps through several big topics – Oil dynasties, Comanches, ruthless battles over land ownership, cattle ranches and power. The book opens with Eli as a boy, in 1849, as his home is raided by brutal comanches. They abuse and slaughter his family and take him and his brother as captives. We read as he integrates into the tribe and how this experience eventually shapes his life. In the second narrative we follow his son Pete as he raises his family on the McCullough ranch – Eli is now famous throughout Texas – a reputable landowner and a ruthless businessman. Unfortunately Pete doesn’t seem to have the same stomach for business as his father. Jeannie is Eli’s great granddaughter and an oil baroness and we meet her as a elderly woman – rich but alone and in peril.
Brutal, harsh but a pleasure all the same
Reading Meyer’s work is a pleasure – it is brutal, harsh but a pleasure all the same. Each storyline has been so meticulously planned and researched that you cannot help but be hooked. Eli is the ultimate anti-hero, and I was fascinated by his every move. His impact on the future generations is obvious and devastating. All 600+ pages are addictive reading and it i difficult to sum up the saga in a petty review. Just know that it is book which is worth investing your time in.
BTW: I am currently half way through the television show which has slightly changed the plot in places and seems to have deleted the Jeannie character as we see her in the book. Maybe she is yet to appear but I feel like we are missing her chunk of the story – worth a watch but don’t judge the book by the television adaptation. Disappointing that they dropped the only strong female character from the book.
Keep track of the books I am reading here at my bookish Instagram account – Books Northern Ireland.