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The Land Breakers (1964)

de John Ehle

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: The Mountain Novels (1)

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2346110,700 (4.3)18
A motley band of characters makes its way into a high mountain valley in northwestern North Carolina to tame the land or to be consumed by it. Five years of struggle to create a community ensue, in which part of the struggle is just to survive. This is the story of late 18th century life in an untamed country.… (mais)

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I believe this is the first in a series of historical novels. It is set in late eighteenth century Kentucky and recounts the efforts of several gritty, hardscrabble families to establish a settlement. The personalities and the relationships are well drawn but where the book really shines is the description of the day to day life. These are hard, complex people who embraced a project against very daunting odds in an environment that is isolated from outside assistance. They encounter all sorts of critters, calamities, and the dark sides of their own personalities, all the while shearing sheeep, raising grain, building cabins, and dogedly surviving. A gem for the detailed depiction of daily living. ( )
  brianstagner | Apr 16, 2023 |
I have never in my life read a book that made me more bone weary or stirred more admiration in me for the pioneer spirit than John Erle’s The Land Breakers. In fact, the land, you would think, would break these men and women, instead of the other way around. With all its beauty, it is viciously cruel and heartbreaking.

At the beginning of the book, Mooney Wright and his wife Imy arrive in the mountains of North Carolina, searching for land to homestead, and purchase a piece of valley land, high in the mountains. That this will be a tale riddled with tragedy is apparent almost immediately, as Imy does not survive the first year and Mooney finds himself alone and despondent, with no one now to share his work or his ambitions. In his grief, we see that settling this land is a matter of not only starting, but starting over and over.

He could not quite come to terms with work again. He who had worked always, who had liked work more than resting, who had once gone to bed each night thinking of what work he might do tomorrow, who had come to this land with daily plans for it, did little with the land. He had no ambitions for it.

Shortly behind Mooney and Imy, leaving Virginia behind, come another, wealthier family, the Harrisons. Tinkler Harrison fancies himself a leader and empire builder and he brings his big dreams and better means to Mooney’s valley. His daughter, Lorry, deserted by her husband, drags her loneliness and her two young sons behind him into a wilderness that needs constant taming; and his brother-in-law, Ernest Plover, brings his wife and his family of girls. What follows is a tale of endurance that leaves the reader awed and speechless.

One of the most intriguing characters Erle gifts us with is Ernest’s daughter, Mina. I was fascinated by her mixture of innocence and knowledge, her vulnerability and capability, and the growth we see in her from her beginnings in the valley to the end of the story. In fact, the women in this book are one of its true strengths. Erle writes them with admiration and compassion, and he gives them their due. It takes a man to clear the fields, but it takes a woman to sustain life.

There’s nothing proper about starting a country. Anything having to do with a birthing is bloody. A birthing pains. Even getting a homestead started pains, for nature doesn’t allow births without suffering.

Erle never allows us to forget that we are watching the birth of something mighty. The birth of a home, a community, a town, and indeed a nation. This is the price that was paid, he seems to say, try to appreciate it.

We all lost something, but we go on. Now and agin we lost what’s dear, and the wound is on us. We carry many a wound by the time we get to aging, but I’m not afraid of scars, and I’m not fireside-tied yet, needing warmth, neither. I’m not old yet.

I read that thinking how quickly this life would age you, how tired you would be when you had finished the milking and milling, the cleaning and cooking, the hoeing and grubbing, the cold-water washing and the hot water of the outdoors when she washed clothes, by soap-making and thread-spinning and cloth-weaving, by wood-toting and skin-scraping,by stock-tending and the care of the family. This is the stuff our grandparents were made of. The stuff we lost along the way, so that we complain of how long it takes our hot water to reach the bath in the morning, or that it is laundry day again and we need to sort clothes and pop them into a washer that will play us a diddy when it is time to transfer them to the dryer, or that we just haven’t anything to fix for supper and will have to go out or order in.

Erle is a masterful writer, who brings you into the valley and makes you feel you are one of these people, intimate with their struggle. Everyone should read this book, if only to feel the weight of the accomplishment of our ancestors, who broke this land with their will and their bare hands and were not broken by it. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
The Land Breakers is a work of historical fiction following the lives of a group of American settlers in the late 1700s who attempt to create a life in the mountains of North Carolina. The first there are Mooney and Imy, who claim a remote piece of land. That same year two other families show up. The book follows this small community as they try to tame the land and create a space for human life in the wilderness. Whether or not they'll be able to come together as a community is constantly in doubt throughout the book.

I really liked this. It reminded me of some of the Scandinavian fiction I've read, like [Growth of the Soil] or [Independent People]. The people don't have a lot of time for talk - they are busy trying to survive. And the main interaction is between the individual and the wilderness. However, within that, the characters grow and you get to know them through their actions and fortitude (or lack thereof!).

One of my favorites so far this year. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Sep 21, 2021 |
It's the craft of this book that is a marvel. The author drew from a rich store of folk knowledge and history to create the warp of the story. The weave is a cast of characters that are fully formed and alive. The language is deceptively simple but the characters and emotions are not. It explores big themes like love and poverty in ways that do not intrude on the story itself. Shoes from a cobbler show wealth. Shoes made of leather pegged with green wood is poverty. Love comes in many forms even if the word love in not used. The book is a gem. ( )
1 vote 77nanci | Jan 8, 2017 |
First released in 1964 The Land Breakers spans from 1779 to 1784 when the first settlers went beyond Morgantown, West Virginia to homestead in the Appalachian Mountains. Mooney Wright was the first to break ground to start a farm and a variety of others followed. He has big dreams and isn’t afraid to work towards his goals.

Tinkler Harrison comes with his family. Tinkler has his own ideas for the settlement all the way down to its name Harrisonville. In his vision the only settlers that will be allowed in the area have to meet his standards. There will be no riff raff or deadbeats in Harrisonville.

Ernest Plover, Tinkler’s brother-in-law, comes later with his family. He has a houseful of girls and his oldest, Belle, is Tinkler’s second wife. Ernest isn’t exactly the ’right’ kind of man to have at the new settlement. He doesn’t really fit the bill but he‘s family.

Many others follow despite the hardships. This unit of people are united in one goal, to keep their homes and to build something out of this wilderness. They come close to losing everything but they stick with it with an eye toward the future.

The characters are so genuine that it’s easy to become involved in their fight for survival. The Land Breakers truly depicts the reality of settling this country. Some parts are almost poetic in their description of the beauty of the land. In other chapters the wonder in the birth of twin lambs and the joy a newly cleared field brings can be felt. There is also the crushing disappointment when bears or wolves kill some of the stock and the ongoing fight to prevent that from happening.

Tinkler Harrison says it best, “it’s harder here, but I care more here. It takes more work here, it takes a man’s life here, it asks all a man has to give and a man gains as well as loses by joining in with land like that.”
( )
  Diane_K | Jul 14, 2015 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
John Ehleautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Spalding, LindaIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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There is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners, yet shall...show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. -- Edmund Burke to the people of England, 1775.
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A motley band of characters makes its way into a high mountain valley in northwestern North Carolina to tame the land or to be consumed by it. Five years of struggle to create a community ensue, in which part of the struggle is just to survive. This is the story of late 18th century life in an untamed country.

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