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Provinces of Night

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  929 ratings  ·  120 reviews
The Bloodworths come from Ackerman's Field, Tennessee. Theirs is a rough and violent past and Boyd Bloodworth - father of the hero, Fleming - is intent on continuing the tradition.
Paperback, 292 pages
Published 2001 by faber and faber (first published 2000)
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Best Southern Literature
191st out of 799 books — 1,902 voters
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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
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
MSJ (Sarah)
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
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
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 yo ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Still rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Daniel Villines
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
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 acade ...more
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
Justin Haynes
PROVINCES OF NIGHT by William Gay is just one hell of a good book. Gay introduces the reader to the totally dysfunctional and continually entertaining Bloodworth family and takes the reader on a wild ride through the hills of Tennessee as we uncover what it means to be family, to fall in love, to forgive, and to try to make amends.

With his second published novel Gay relied even more heavily on the Southern Gothic motifs and he does it well. PROVINCES OF NIGHT will keep you laughing as you fall m
Carl Brush
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,
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 tryi ...more
Kirk Smith
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---
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.
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 h ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Ryan rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
This was a damn good read. The publisher's summary of this book is so superficial as to be laughable.

Set in 1951, it primarily concerns the Bloodworth clan, but there are some other great supporting characters. E.F. is the old man, father of Warren, Boyd, and Brady, grandfather of Neal and Fleming, and wife of Julia. E.G. comes home to die. Fleming, age 17, meets him for the first and, along with his friend Junior Albright, make the old man's "trailer" habitable. E.F.'s sons are all quite crazy.
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 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.
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
João Carlos
“Domínios da Noite” segundo romance do norte-americano William Gay 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.” – que se centra uma narrativa na melho
Jul 01, 2012 wally rated it 5 of 5 stars
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

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
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 an ...more
Leigh K Cunningham
Provinces of Night is a haunting, comical and tragic story that takes the reader into small-town Tennessee. The protagonist, Fleming Bloodworth returns to his family after a 40-year absence, and only his wife knows the truth. His sons tell us about the abandonment at the beginning of the story and we are left to believe their perception as truth, but as the story unfolds, we come to understand what really happened and who he was protecting. The ending was sad - I didn't want it to end this way, ...more
Jobie Hughes
Aug 22, 2012 Jobie Hughes rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner, or lovers of the Southern Gothic style of writing.
This is the second book of William Gay's that I've read (the first was Twilight), and Provinces of Night is every bit as good as Twilight and maybe even better. Sadly William Gay passed away suddenly this past February of an apparent heart attack, but that aside, I'm completely at a loss for why Gay never developed a bigger following. In my opinion, he deserved far more fame and recognition than was given to him. I can't recommend him enough, especially for those who love the southern gothic sty ...more
William Gay is the best southern writer of our time. I am so pleased to be able to say that about a fellow Tennessean. I live around 50 miles from Hohenwald, where Gay lives, and I can tell you that his dialogue and characters are completely authentic. I know these folks--especially Junior Albright. He is my favorite character of the book. Read this book if you want to feel, smell, and savor a slice of life in rural Tennessee. I believe William Gay will take his place alongside Faulkner, Foote, ...more
Southern gothic at its finest. Fans of Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy will find much to love here. Some other reviewer described this as "horrible people doing horrible things in between the most beautiful descriptions of weather" and I don't think I can top that. Could have been a 5-star favorite for all the amazing things about it: prose (so rich, evocative), characters, setting (rural Tennessee, mid-century), mood (deliciously ominous and portentous) - but the plot was just a bit weaker than I ...more
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
Provinces of Night is quite simply an extraordinary book. The ideal balance between lyrical tension, singing, singeing metaphors, deeply thought out characters, an unforgettable setting (eastern Tennessee) and descriptions of nature that fit in naturally, poetically, and tragically, woven into the fabric of the lives of the Bloodworth family and others. Loved, loved it. Just finished it today, reading it out by the East River as the cold wind blew in and up the river from the south. Riveting.
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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.
More about William Gay...
I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories Twilight The Long Home Wittgenstein's Lolita and The Iceman Time Done Been Won't Be No More

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