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West

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  2,572 ratings  ·  507 reviews
When widowed mule breeder Cy Bellman reads in the newspaper that colossal ancient bones have been discovered in the salty Kentucky mud, he sets out from his small Pennsylvania farm to see for himself if the rumors are true: that the giant monsters are still alive and roam the uncharted wilderness beyond the Mississippi River. Promising to write and to return in two years, ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Scribner
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El Hugh I think Cy isnt in the pirogue when this happens but on the riverbank. Although it isn't stated explicitly the way he observes the accident suggests…moreI think Cy isnt in the pirogue when this happens but on the riverbank. Although it isn't stated explicitly the way he observes the accident suggests this.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  2,572 ratings  ·  507 reviews


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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.



Cy Bellman reads of monstrous bones discovered in the Kentucky mud and is compelled to leave his Pennsylvania farm on horseback to behold the mammoth creatures with his own eyes. Though his journey is recounted briefly, and the few pages of this slim novel must be shared with Bellman’s ten-year-old daughter and a Shawnee boy, Davies weaves a story both perilous and impassioned, one that grips you to the
...more
Angela M
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

Inspired by Lewis and Clark’s expedition in the early 19th century, ten years later Cy Bellman, a grieving widower, leaves Pennsylvania and his 10 year old daughter Bess on an expedition to the West, on a quest for the huge animals that he thought might exist when he learns that large fossils have been found. What would possess a man to leave his young daughter with his sister alone on his mule breeding farm was beyond my imagination. For Cy it was a calling : “ I have to go. I have to
...more
Annet
The compass the fur trader had given him he had no use for because he had the music of the river and the bright configuration of the stars, but he carried it in his hand because he liked it for its beauty and the suspicion that it had some secret power of its own the fur trader wasn't telling him about; that it was alive in some way. He liked the way the tiny needle quivered beneath the clear covering, like his own heart when he was out stalking or waiting with a hook for a fish to bite....

Small
...more
Diane S ☔
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
From Pennsylvania to Kentucky, that is the goal of Bellman after reading in newspapers the discovery of some huge bones from an animal never seen before.A widower, he leaves his ten year old daughter in the care of his taciturn sister, planning to be gone two years or so. Hiring a young Indian boy with the stange name Old woman from a distance, he sets out into unknown territory. Bess,tries to follow her father's journey n maps she located in the library. While Bellman finds dangers in the cold, ...more
Cheri
4.5 “Pre-Light-Pollution” Stars

“I dip my cup of soup back from a gurgling crackling cauldron in some train yard
My beard ruff and then a cold pile and a
And a dirty hat pulled low across my face
Through cupped hands, 'round a tin can
I pretend to hold you to my breast and find
That you're wavin' from the back roads
Ever smiling, ever gentle on my mind”

-- Gentle on My Mind, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Songwriters: John Hartford

When John Cyrus Bellman first read about the giant bones that had been
...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
5 Wild, Wild West stars to West by Carys Davies!

This bold, unforgettable story is short on pages, but huge on impact! I’m going to try my best to keep my review brief, too, so I leave the reader to explore from scratch this marvelous adventure in storytelling.

Cy Bellman leaves his home and young daughter in Pennsylvania to head west. Told in his perspective, as well as his daughter’s, West is full of emotion, heart, adventure, danger, hope, and wonder.

It was a book I devoured in one
...more
Karen
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5
In the early 19th century, a restless widower named Cy Bellman leaves his farm and ten year old daughter in the care of his sister and heads from Pennsylvania out WEST, in search of mammoth animals that he has read about, it’s a need that consumes him.
The story of his journey and also that of his daughter while he is gone is a rough one and filled with much loneliness and grief.
I loved it!

Thank you to Scribner through Edelweiss!
Fran
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Esil
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A high 4 stars

Carys Davies writes beautifully in simple and precise prose. It was a pleasure to read West for that reason alone. West is very short — barely a novel, really — but it conveys a lot. Set many years back in the US, Cy who is a widower leaves his daughter Bess in the care of his sister to seek out giant mammoth like creatures he has recently read about. It’s a fool’s journey. West feels like an allegory about the unintended consequences of foolish journeys. Heartbreak, missed
...more
PattyMacDotComma
2.5 to 3
“Bellman loved this story, felt strengthened by it—the notion that whatever your own idea of the known world, there were always things outside it you hadn’t dreamed of.”


John Cyrus Bellman has a compulsion to go West to seek the big creatures he’s heard about in the news. He was captivated by the Lewis and Clark expedition and feels drawn to follow. He’s a farmer in the 1800s, a widower for many years with a ten-year-old daughter, Bess. The book opens with her begging her father not to
...more
Richard Derus
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: returned, borrowed
Real Rating: 3.9* of five

A lovely little book, a slip of a thing that has the gravitas of a far longer book in a far more concentrated and sharp novella.

I can't blame anyone for finding the story sad, it surely is; but with an ending so deeply felt and so beautifully wrought that the most size-conscious reader can't come away feeling gypped. Old Woman from a Distance, the teenaged Shawnee surivior of the Trail of Tears, is a beautifully rendered portrait of The Survivor; Bellman, the red-bearded
...more
Sue
This short novel, provides a detailed picture of a moment in time, early in the 19th century, as the United States is a nation on the edge of wilderness, beginning to push further into that unknown area. John Cyrus Bellman, of Pennsylvania, becomes enraptured by a story he sees at the town subscription library. Large bones, including apparent tusks, have been unearthed in Kentucky. Cyrus is a dreamer; he has already left England for America. Now he has a new dream: to see these enormous living ...more
Marialyce
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
You can see my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

"Thou hast seen nothing yet.” ( Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote)

The spirit of adventure and discovery lies within all of us. Some of us discover from the comforts of our own home, or through a book, or perhaps even a trip, while others go out and do try to tilt those windmills. Like the character Don Quixote, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, looks to adventure and discovery. He reads of the discovery of colossal bones in
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are new to Carys Davies, I will please beg you to read her short story collection, The Redemption of Galen Pike, which is a standout on numerous levels. I was less interested in the story of this short novel, but it was still good. A man leaves his daughter with his sister after his wife dies, in search of the creatures described in travel accounts from men traveling west. The daughter Bess seems to be the focus of the novel, but unfortunately she is also the focus of leering men in her ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cathrine ☯️ by: Diane S ☔
4
If a picture can be worth a thousand words, can a very short novel be worth a thousand pictures?
Yes. Its spare pages open out in true CinemaScope fashion just as The West lay before those brave or crazy enough to venture forth and that's exactly what Cy Bellman does but he's not in search of Indians or gold or land but living, breathing dinosaurs in the mid 1800s. He leaves behind his very young and vulnerable daughter. Just who will be in the most danger? You will have to read to find
...more
Peter Boyle
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I first became aware of West from a rave review in The Sunday Times. Its editor Andrew Holgate said that he hadn't felt as strongly about a novel since Golden Hill, and given how much I enjoyed that wonderful book, I had to see if he was on the money again.

The action takes place in America of the early 19th century. In the opening chapter, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, is saying goodbye to his young daughter Bess. He has read a newspaper article describing enormous bones discovered in Kentucky,
...more
Claire
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2019
Oh I’m glad I finally picked this one up, West is absolutely my kind of read. If you like your novels detailed and intricate steer clear. Davies first novel is slight and quiet, but still manages to discuss some big ideas, draw vivid portrait of a place, and construct characters with surprising depth. Davies’ writing is carefully considered and sparse, every word and phrase has meaning. This is a novel you savour sentence by sentence, and are simultaneously compelled to read on (and on, and on). ...more
Lisa
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
[4+] I read this short novel in one sitting - but savored rather than gulped it. The writing is exquisite and the structure and pacing - dipping back and forth between Bellman's journey westward and the daughter he left behind in Pennsylvania worked beautifully.
Diane Barnes
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can read the plot synopsis on the GR description, so I will just say that I really love this author's style. Very understated and simple, but she says so much in so few words. This book is 166 pages, but it almost felt like an epic adventure story. I understood these characters completely. And the juxtaposition of the father's journey and the daughter's life at home was another factor. The conclusion was perfect for me, and left me with indelible images to carry in my mind. I've not read her ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
A rich, nuanced epic in miniature of the American west. In 1815 a silly man leaves behind his young daughter in Pennsylvania, and his widower grief, traveling afar in search of live dinosaurs. Davies spins a spare novel out of the essential American threads of idiotic settler maleness, racism, sexual violence, and genocide. Oscar Wilde said “I cannot think otherwise than in stories.“ I say that from here on in I shall be unable to think about America without casting my thoughts back upon this ...more
Emma
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This piece of historical fiction, an account of a man who leaves his life to search for dinosaurs in the unknown lands beyond the Mississippi river, manages to be both dreamlike and ploddingly real. Both the man and the language are spare and basic, they step carefully along their path, each reflecting the other, but slowly move beyond the cautious into the wilderness and possibility of the undetermined self. It is cleverly done, if not always as gripping as you might expect from such a journey, ...more
Annie Rosewood
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Finishing this novel has at once made me speechless as well as making me want to write an essay because there is so much that I could say about it. This novel is about extinction - of a species, of a people, and of that intangible something that lingers within us and propels us to pursue something greater than ourselves. I loved the pacing and the way that Davies describes the silent beauty of nature and the tender interactions between the characters. There is nothing flowery or sentimental ...more
Eric Anderson
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In early 19th century America a widower named Cy Bellman journeys out to the wild west leaving behind his adolescent daughter Bess. He’s seen a news report that the bones of colossal unknown beasts were discovered there so he sets out hoping to discover if any of these rare animals survive. His mission is undoubtably foolish as such a dangerous journey at this time takes years and means he has to entrust the business of his farm and the raising of his daughter to his sister Julie. It’s not even ...more
Samuel Bigglesworth
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was wonderful....

John Williams and Hemingway are no longer with us, but we have another great writer of sparse careful prose and grand themes in Carys Davies.

This deserves a slow and careful read, give your mind time to fill in the blanks between the words with your own imagination.

I am tempted to re-read this straight away.

Similar in many ways to Butcher's Crossing by John Williams

There is a tense change on page 76 (hardcover print) from past to present. This vaguely fits in with the
...more
Caroline
Jul 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Cannot get past page 26. Bailing.

It sounded wrong from the start. I’ve never heard language like this in documents from American history. At times it sounded like an attempt to construct something Amish-y, but then there would be a 21st century clunker like ‘help me out here.'

Then even more wrong notes. As Bellman started west, I thought to myself ‘I spent much of my childhood camping throughout the Rocky Mountains, and this just doesn’t ring true.’ More trouble when Davies describes one of the
...more
Nancy
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss

John Cyrus Bellman left his Lewiston, PA farm and his only child to embark on a quest into the west. He knew he would be gone at least two years. Was he a fool, like his sister judged, or romantic and adventurous, as he appeared to his daughter Bess?

Bellman's desire to see undiscovered country was rooted in a longing to find the living creatures whose huge bones had been discovered in Kentucky. He had already crossed an ocean, from England to America, built a farm, had a child, and lost a wife.
...more
Jeanette
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was enjoyable to read. It may be simplistic to review it this way, but I found it to resemble an American style fairy tale. Not like the European with ogres, vampires, viscous Royals etc. But one in which the practical and natural realities of North American territory 12 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition- sets the stage for its own type of "good" guy hero and "bad guy" perp. And victims and side animals (like Cinderella's birds making her gown /Disney) all play character roles in the ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now that’s storytelling! WEST reminded me a little of NEWS OF THE WORLD and was a true epic-in-miniature. The perfect pre-flight length read, too.
Lauren
Cy Bellman is a curious man. When he hears and see articles of the large bones uncovered in "the West" (which was Kentucky), he decides to strike out and find the live creatures west of the Mississippi. He leaves his 10-year old daughter, Bess, with her aunt in Pennsylvania, and strikes out saying he hopes to be back "in a year or two".

The narratives diverge, following Cy and Bess on different sides of the continent. Cy hires a Shawnee young man to guide and help him with his supplies, and they
...more
Maddie
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, this was disappointing.

When Bellman, a red-haired english settler in the East of the United States reads in the newspaper that colossal ancient bones have been discovered in the West, a passion awakens deep inside him that leads him to abandon his ten-year-old child, Bessie, and go out into the semi-uncharted wilderness of the early 19th Century in order to find this unknown beasts. Along the way, he makes his acquaintance with a Shawnee boy who agrees to lead him on his expedition, even
...more
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Why did Old Woman From a Distance...*spoilers* 1 9 Jan 23, 2019 05:21AM  

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Carys Davies is the author of a novel, West, and two collections of short stories, Some New Ambush and The Redemption of Galen Pike, which won the 2015 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and the 2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. She is also the recipient of the Royal Society of Literature's V.S. Pritchett Prize, the Society of Authors' Olive Cook Short Story Award, a Northern ...more
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“He began to feel that he might have broken his life on this journey, that he should have stayed at home with the small and the familiar instead of being out here with the large and the unknown.” 2 likes
“Sometimes, to encourage himself, he laid his mouth against its soft, leaflike ears and whispered, “Remember, there are no gods. We have ourselves and nothing else.” As he headed” 1 likes
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