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Provinces of Night

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  1,382 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
The year is 1952, and E.F. Bloodworth has returned to his home - a forgotten corner of Tennessee - after twenty years of roaming. The wife he walked out on has withered and faded. His three sons are grown and angry. Warren is a womanising alcoholic; Boyd is driven by jealousy to hunt down his wife's lover; and Brady puts hexes on his enemies from his mother's porch. Only ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published 2001 by faber and faber (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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I’m going to go with the best way I know to put this. If you took what I love about Cormac McCarthy, and what I love about Justified, and what I love about home, the center of that Venn diagram is this book.

Meaning, there wasn’t a pleasure center in my brain this didn’t light up like Cleveland. Meaning, if there were any folks I’d bring to life out of a book it’s the Bloodworths out of this one.

* * *

January 2013: If this was my favorite book of 2011, and my favorite book of 2012, kicking the yea
Nov 25, 2014 Shaun rated it it was amazing
This is about as close to a perfect book as I can imagine.

William Gay is/was a wordsmith of the highest caliber on equal footing with greats like O'Connor, Faulkner, and Wolfe.

Vivid, complex characters, exquisite prose, compelling story, and a tragic irony woven throughout...what more can a reader ask for?

The fact that this book only has 680 ratings proves to me that a book's success/popularity often has little to do with how good it really is. Like a number of greats, I think Gay's talent/accom
Do you have a clear idea of what makes a Southern Gothic novel? I didn't before. I do now. Macabre tone, deeply flawed characters, a dash of voodoo, a derelict setting, sinister events, poverty, crime and violence. All this is delivered in the novel, but adjectives just don't draw the picture as well as Gay's story does.

The first half of the novel didn't deliver; the second half did. The first half is terribly slow. The momentum builds at the end.

The author often doesn't clarify who he is spea
Doug H
Oct 16, 2015 Doug H rated it it was amazing

I loved everything about this novel, but I'd especially recommend it to people who prefer lyrical writing and character-driven storytelling over a thrill-filled plot. The story itself is good, but it takes the more scenic route home at times and sort of floats around in a way that makes it all feel a bit meditative. I actually loved it for that drowsy quality and read it slowly over several days.

Provinces of Night is simultaneously a coming-of-age story, a search for redemption and reparation, a
No Name
I wish I could be sitting on the porch listening to E.F. play his banjo right now. E.F. is a character not soon to be forgotten, similar to Larry Brown's Wade (see the books "Joe" and "Fay"). Both characters are old men doing scandalous acts - some funny and some not - but unforgettable nonetheless.

The Provinces of Night is another excellent book by William Gay. He is soon becoming my favorite. This story encompasses so much that this review will not do it justice. I simply loved it. I loved th
Jul 25, 2014 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry, no plot summary in this review. You can read one of the other reviews or the book jacket. But I will tell you why you should read it. There is an aching poetic beauty, that never runs away with it self and becomes pretense. There is also straightforward simplicity that is never banal or ordinary. The characters with their burdens and hopes are vivid enough that you can smell them. The ending works, but you still walk away with things to chew on, you wonder about the characters once ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Some link Gay to Cormac as the younger brother who can’t get out of the firstborn’s shadow. I am writing this review in part to debunk that concept; forgive me there will be a soapbox section at the tail-end. Before I get wound up though, the take away here is that this book touches all the bases to be great. It does more than touch each base; it slides hard into all of them....first and home included. It's a great character story. Fleming is pure hero. He's a high school dropout who is an ...more
Apr 27, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Reading about a character who is as beguiled by books as you are in that moment, it's like a secret shared across time. Fleming Bloodworth, I want to be in your gang.

Add everything said well, seductively, throw in voodoo, vengeance, well drawn characters, a gothic backdrop and you have Provinces of Night. I kind of overdosed on the first 20 pages and had to give it a rest. Gorgeous stuff.

You also need time with it when the story rambles, as the characters become drowsy - you need to settle into
Feb 11, 2014 Still rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who reads.
First William Gay novel I’ve read and it’s left me awestruck.

Beautiful and brilliant.
Hilarious yet inevitably tragic.

These past few years I’ve read some excellent Southern Gothic/Redneck Noir/Grit Lit novels but this one left me feeling like I’d wandered drunk through a lost and forgotten family graveyard in the deep South somewhere only to stumble winding up impaled on a tombstone.
Southern lit. It starts slow and was confusing at first, I had difficulty in following the characters and connecting them to each other, but I was hooked on the beautiful descriptive language, as it puts a spell on you:

“The wind was at the trees like something alive and faint light quaked and died, flared and diminished far to the west and he held his breath waiting for the thunder. It finally came, so faint it was like a dream of thunder, a hoarse incoherent whisper, just a madman mumbling to h
Kirk Smith
Feb 14, 2014 Kirk Smith rated it it was amazing
I just found this author, and I could not be more thrilled. It was an excellent book in the manner of Cormac McCarthy. I laughed a dozen times in this book, and I rarely find things this funny. Subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor, it really had me going. I attached a link to a review that will inspire you to read this wonderful book. See Justin Haynes review at---
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
Let us now sing the praises of William Gay, which I have done twice before over the last months. But never enough. This occasion is Provinces of Night, the most challenging and profound of the now-trio of works that have fallen into my hands.
We are as usual in rural Tennessee, town of Ackerman’s Field. Year 1952. Gay serves up a feast of complex characters and wonderful names. The Bloodworths—E.F., Fleming, Brady, Boyd. There’s itchy Mama, Sheriff Bellewether, Raven Lee Halfacre, Snowwhite Café,
Mar 19, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
It's already a couple of months since I read this. Problem is, I'm so in awe of the quality of William Gay's writing, that I don't think I will ever be able to post a fitting review of this novel. Perhaps after the next time I read it, I might be able to review it properly, for I will surely be returning to the Bloodworths again and again. Oh, one thing I have noted, is that William Gay always nails those awkward dialogue exchanges between two people who have the hots for each other and are ...more
William Gay was the son of a sharecropper from Tennessee with an ear for language and love of literature. A blue-collar worker with the soul of a poet, Gay read Thomas Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O'Connor when he wasn't painting houses or hanging drywall. Although he wrote for most of his life, his work was continually rejected by the literary scene. Finally, at 58 he published his first novel and the next year a bidding war ensued for Provinces of Night. He died at 70.

These hours befor
Daniel Villines
Jun 29, 2014 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it
Update - 29 JUN 14

Something that I did not mention in my review below was how impressed I was with the character, Raven Lee. She was a young girl who was placed in a life that was filled with tragic events and yet she asserts herself as a strong human force in the book. One detail of her character was that she claimed that Rebecca was her favorite book: "[I've] probably read it a dozen times already".

But why was it her favorite book? My recent reading of Rebecca revealed that the main character
Sep 27, 2012 Lou rated it it was amazing
William gay was a writer of profound lyrical skill, a master craftsman in storytelling holds a sheer beauty with words and language usage, arranges sentences in a way that makes reading his stories a joy. His words metaphors and similes paint wonderful scenes and thoughts of our surroundings and the human condition.
This story is of discovery and redeeming through loss and love. The characters are memorable and from walks of life that liven the somber soul and broaden some narrow minds.
His charac
João Carlos

William Gay (1941 - 2012)

“Domínios da Noite” segundo romance do norte-americano William Gay (1941 - 2012) decorre na ruralidade do Tennessee na década de 1950.
Retrato de três gerações da família Bloodworth é no jovem Fleming - aspirante a escritor, abandonado pelo seu pai Boyd e pela sua mãe; que lhe queima uma caixa de livros, “expressando em definitivo o seu desprezo pelo mundo da escrita, por aqueles que liam e por aqueles que tentariam transcrever essa emoção em infindáveis blocos de notas.”
William Gay’s second novel is an even more rambling affair than his first. With a wild raucous humor on display on nearly every page this is a novel of the old south that that avoids sentiment and nostalgia. A wider tapestry then his first, while the ghosts of Cormac McCarthy’s Tennessee are still evident (taking its title from a line in Child of God), this is closer to Faulkner with a dissection of an eccentric family as its focus. So in short this novel is a comic southern gothic with ribald ...more
Sep 07, 2013 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Open the book to nearly any page and you will find some of the most beautiful, poetic descriptions of the natural surroundings, ironically inhabited by poor hillbillies trying to scratch out a life for themselves. The plot is constructed in episodic vignettes woven together like a crazy quilt, the past and the present stitched together. I was a little slow about picking up why Gay used this structure until I was nearly finished the book.
Dec 06, 2014 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2000s
I've been recommending this book to nearly everyone who would listen for weeks now, and now that I've finally finished I can continue to do so with even greater conviction. The oft mentioned McCarthy comparisons are not only accurate, but well deserved; William Gay has a great command of language that brings the South to life in such a beautiful and poetic way (even with all the violence and hardships and heartache) that one simply cannot leave this story without fond memories.
Jan 11, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a photo of Sir Gay on my wall. His book is wonderful, gruesome, intrusive and honest. To meet him after reading this book was astonishing. He´s so very quiet and introverted but his book just screams. He lives in a trailer cabin thing in the mountains and I´ve used his bathroom.
Aug 09, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
Beautiful and terrifying...a masterpiece.
Jul 01, 2012 wally rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay
this here will be the 1st story from gay for me...

there's a couple quotes at the beginning of this from Cormac McCarthy's Child Of God, 1973:
were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.

so that's where the title comes from, hey?

and another from richard "rabbit" brown, james alley blues, 1927:

sometimes i think you're just too sweet to die
sometimes i think you're just too sweet to die
another time i think you oughta be buried alive.

there is a prologue
the dozer took the
Apr 13, 2014 Ryan rated it it was amazing
I was incredibly surprised at how great a read this was. My dad recommended this for me, telling me the whole story about how William Gay didn’t start writing until he was 60, only wrote three books, and then died; but upon his death his works had been praised and his talent finally finding a bit of mainstream exposure. Granted, my dad recommends everything he reads, so I was prepared to take this with a grain of salt (especially when I didn’t really buy this book, but he left it for me after a ...more
Keegan Canty
Mar 10, 2015 Keegan Canty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Provinces of Night but after reading the last page and setting down the book, I had no immediate reaction. William Gay's story is so unique that I've taken a few weeks to write a review. The immediate take away was, 'good story,' but I knew there was more to it than only that. I didn't wish to trivialize the book so I waited until I had time to completely digest what I read before writing.

At the story's core, is the questioning of the ever popular idiom "does the apple fall far
Oct 12, 2014 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Gay, a novelist and short story writer from Tennessee, whom I’d not read or even heard of before a friend recommended this novel to me, is very well worth the reading and I will be looking forward to reading his other two novels and a short story collection shortly. (Unfortunately, it’s a small shelf of works for the writer who began his career relatively late in life and died in 2012.)

Provinces of Night is a gritty coming of age story among the rural Southern generationally poor. It’s not a lon
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 14, 2015 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it it was amazing

Provinces Of Night by William Gay


As we are introduced to Gay's characters, it's 1952 in rural Tennessee.
Two important elements of the 1952 backdrop - the valley is about to be buried under a lake by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the nation enters the Korean War.

E.F. Bloodworth is finally coming home to his mountain home "seventy miles back of Nashville, Tennessee.
He's an itinerant bluesman, determined to abandon the life of vagrant banjo picker.
He's returned home to make amends with the
Jul 31, 2014 Casceil rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The author's lush prose paints landscapes you can almost reach out and touch and smell. The story develops slowly, but occasionally seems to explode into emotional conflicts, with unexpected violence. Rather than try to describe this book, I'd like to quote some examples of the prose. First, a description of walking along a road at night:
"He was following a road that wound through heavy timber, dark trunks like inkstains seeping down a page, velvet pine foliage against the sk
I finished reading this book five days ago, and I am still thinking about what happened after the book ended. I've started and finished other books since then, and as I've read them, I've wondered how the characters of this book would have fit in to other stories. I wonder how the characters of these new books would have interacted with the Bloodworth family. How would they have fit in that tough little corner of south western Tennessee? William Gay is such a good story teller that his people ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing
What a great book. Easily one of the best books I've read this year. Like others have mentioned, the writing style of William Gay is very reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, taking what at first glance is ugly or mundane and like a master craftsman, shaping and sculpting and molding until something beautiful and profound remains. But unlike McCarthy, Gay adds sprinklings of dark humor to make the story feel more immediate and human. Maybe more like a mashup of McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. This is a ...more
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USA Geography Cha...: Provinces of Night by William Gay 1 5 Dec 29, 2014 09:32PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Publication Year 2 17 Oct 26, 2013 02:32PM  
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William Elbert Gay is the author of the novels Provinces of Night, The Long Home, and Twilight and the short story collection I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down. He is the winner of the 1999 William Peden Award and the 1999 James A. Michener Memorial Prize and the recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship.
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“He wanted her the rest of his life, and failing that, he wanted permission to walk along beside her while she lived it.” 11 likes
“don't start talkin about books or quotin poems at them. these is good folks but they ain't real crazy about readin books. just do what i do and you'll be all right.” 5 likes
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