Summary and book reviews of The Gates of The Alamo by Stephen Harrigan

The Gates of The Alamo

By Stephen Harrigan

The Gates of The Alamo
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2000,
    580 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2001,
    580 pages.

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Book Summary

A huge, riveting, deeply imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo, an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history. With its vibrant, unexpected characters and its richness of authentic detail, The Gates of the Alamo is an unforgettable re-creation of a time, a place, and a heroic conflict.

The time is 1835. At the center of a canvas crowded with Mexicans and Americans, with Karankawa and Comanche Indians, with settlers of many nationalities, stand three people whose fortunes quickly become our urgent concern: Edmund McGowan, a naturalist of towering courage and intellect, whose life's work is threatened by the war against Mexico and whose character is tested by his own dangerous pride; Mary Mott, a widowed innkeeper on the Texas coast, a determined and resourceful woman; and her sixteen-year-old son, Terrell, whose first shattering experience with love leads him instead to war, and into the crucible of the Alamo.

As Edmund McGowan and Mary Mott take off in pursuit of Terrell and follow him into the fortress, the powerful but wary attraction between them deepens. And the reader is drawn with them into the harrowing days of the battle itself.

Never before has the fall of the Alamo been portrayed with such immediacy. And for the first time the story is told not just from the perspective of the American defenders but from that of the Mexican attackers as well. We follow Blas Montoya, a sergeant in an elite sharpshooter company, as he fights to keep his men alive not only in the inferno of battle but also during the long forced march north from Mexico proper to Texas. And through the eyes of the ambitious mapmaker Telesforo Villasenor, we witness the cold deliberations of General Santa Anna.

Filled with dramatic scenes, abounding in fictional and historical personalities -- among them James Bowie, David Crockett, and William Travis -- The Gates of the Alamo enfolds us in history, and through its remarkable and passionate storytelling allows us to participate at last in an American legend.

Excerpt
The Gates of the Alamo

In the early spring of 1835 an American botanist named Edmund McGowan travelled southeast from Béxar on the La Bahía road, following the course of the San Antonio River as it made its unhurried way through the oak mottes and prairies of Mexican Texas. He rode a big-headed mustang mare named Cabezon and led an elegant henny mule loaded down with his scant baggage. Professor, a quizzical-looking mongrel, scouted ahead of the little caravan, sniffing out the road when it grew obscure and threatened to disappear from sight.

Edmund McGowan was forty-four years of age that spring, very much the confident, solitary man he aspired to be. He was of medium height but heavy-boned, his hands blunted and scarred by decades of hostile weather and various misadventures involving thorns and briars, snakebite, and the claws of a jaguarundi cat. His features were pleasingly bland, but there was a keenness and luminosity in his eyes. He possessed all his ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers

Strict traditionalists may bridle at the deft ease with which Harrigan manipulates the bloody siege to allow a sentimental conclusion to his novel, and exacting historians may note his glossing of Mexican tactics in the final storming of the old mission, though the gore and guts of 19th-century combat are faithfully rendered. Yet Harrigan has crafted a compulsively readable historical drama on a grand scale, peopled with highly believable frontier personalities--Mexican as well as American--and suffused with period authenticity.

School Library Journal

The narrative flows smoothly even as it reveals an impressive amount of historical research. Dialogue and story line convey such an abundance of detail that even a neophyte to Texas history will feel connected to the plot. Some YAs may find the length daunting, but those willing to give Harrigan's novel the time it deserves will be glad they did.

Library Journal

so well mingled are history, biography, and imagination that one does not pause to ask where one ends and the other begins. This book deserves a place of honor on your shopping list.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

...readers are made privy to a heart-stopping, realistic depiction of the Battle of the Alamo. But the battle section is characteristic of all the scenes in the book, which build to an artful depiction of a certain time and place.

Kirkus Reviews

An original work of high distinction indeed: as fine a historical novel as any within recent memory, and far and away Harrigan's best book yet.

Newsweek

Harrigan has made us care afresh about this shopworn tale, even as he debunks the mythology around it. The result is a genuinely moving epic.

Reader Reviews
Guy

I enjoy historical novels and this one is very good. It played out the humanity of the defenders while maintaining their honor.

Lesley R

I found this book to be a real page-turner. Normally this genre does not attract my attention much, but as a native Texan I felt to need to look a little closer at this one. Now I am extremely glad that I did. I think I have around 3/4 copies of it ...   Read More

D. Joseph

Growing up in the part of Texas in which this book is set, I was aware, but not particularly interested in the developments surrounding the siege at the Alamo. This book changed that for me.

Although situations in which the story's protagonists find ...   Read More

william

This book was one of the best books i have got in a long time

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