this review was written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 30th April 2014:
When George Goodnight, a lawyer on the staff of a London newspaper, finds his marriage has gone sour, his family holiday is cancelled and his car, broken down on the motorway, has been stolen, he walks through a gate in a fence on a summer's day in the middle of England. What he doesn't know, as he takes his first light steps across the sunlit meadows near the tiny village of Somerbourne Magna, is that he is embarking on a course that will take him far away from the country, the surroundings and the way of life he has always known. He is embarking on a journey that will eventually take him to the other side of the world.
Author Leslie Thomas shows himself to be a master of the sustained narrative novel of adventure and romance as he evokes his hero's fitful progress round the world. Along the way George has close encounters with storms at sea and in the air; with poverty and despair; with true love and exotic passion. He spends Christmas in prison, encounters a substitute for the son he never had and tracks down a girl who was swopped at birth for some rare stamps. Always he moves on.
Sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, sometimes alarming, the adventures of George Goodnight and his shadowy alter ego, Oliver Loving, represent stages in what is both a quest for excitement and love and a haunting evocation of what happens when a man starts running away from life and can't stop. The descriptions of the cities and villages George travels to and the extraordinary cast of people he encounters are sparkling and authentic. This long, swirling novel, with comedy in its buttonhole and pathos at its heart, is a tour de force and wonderfully enthralling read.
Well this was a long book with small print - but I agree with Barbara Simpson who recommended it that it is well worth reading. It’s sheer escapism, it makes you laugh and gets you thinking. All the characters are believable, the situations fascinating and imaginative, with excellent descriptions, humour and pathos. a real page turner.
George’s pseudonyms Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving were actual people with very interesting, suspense filled biographies. There’s a lot about them on the internet. They were cattle barons in Texas in the 1800s. Goodnight and Loving moved their cattle through dangerous territory as the Texas Panhandle was still heavily populated with bandits from Mexico, Apache, and Comanche. Their 2,000 mile path through New Mexico and Colorado became the legendary Goodnight/Loving trail. They lived through the Civil War, Goodnight who was in the Texas Rangers rescued Ann Parker who had been captured by Comanches as a child, but she died of a broken heart as her infant daughter died and she missed her husband and two sons. Loving was eventually shot by Comanches and Goodnight took his body from New Mexico back to Texas for burial. Goodnight who smoked 50 cigars a day until he switched to a pipe lived to 93.
There is actually a fictionalized account of their cattle drive called Lonesome Dove.