Julie Christine's Reviews > Days Without End

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
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I have some catching up to do. Days Without End is Sebastian Barry's seventh title in a canon that follows the Dunnes of Dublin and the McNultys of Sligo through two centuries and multiple continents. I first encountered Barry through his soul-ripping A Long, Long Way, one of the most powerful war (in this case WWI) novels I have ever encountered. And then again in A Secret Scripture, a private meditation on grief and memory and a rebuke of a culture that bound women into a prison of inescapable social mores. Of the others in this collection—not a series, really, but a world linked by family and place—I have yet to read, but in time, I will. Sebastian Barry, like his fellow Irish literary contemporaries Colm Toibin, Colum McCann, Anne Enright, counts among the writers whose commanding style and fearless storytelling inspire and slay me.

Days Without End is an American story told through the eyes and heart of Irish-born Tom McNulty, whose family fled famine on the island for rangy freedom in North America. Tom meets John Cole when the two are teenagers scrabbling for purchase in rough-and-ready 1849 Missouri. They find work as young saloon dancers, offering chaste comfort to miners desperate for a tender female touch. In dresses and petticoats they make their way and fall in love with each other, until their bodies usher them into undeniable manhood. Then they become warriors, charged with clearing the Plains states of buffalo and Sioux. Both men were born into violence, into an Ireland gutted of Irish, cleared by English soldiers. So perhaps it is inevitable that their history would track them to a fledgling nation, to be repeated in reverse. They become the occupiers, seeking to eradicate the history that stands in the way of a new and growing country's wealth and domination. Their external lives are marked by violence and deprivation. Their internal lives are bound by love.

Into this dreamlike clash of horror and beauty, another unlikely love blooms. Winona, a young Sioux girl, becomes a ward of the US Army after her tribe is slaughtered and the two lovers adopt her, a misfit trio founded on violence and need. When the Civil War lands Thomas and John onto yet another battlefield, they fight Confederate soldiers from an Irish contingent, men they would have tilled fields side-by-side at home.

What a rich and complicated novel. I reeled with each page, cringing in horror at the Great Plains massacres and Civil War atrocities, astonished by the elegance of Barry's prose, the fresh wonder of Thomas McNulty's voice, the lovely matter-of-factness of taboo love and the shock of willing participation in America's brutal expansion. Days Without End is a work of staggering beauty.
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Reading Progress

February 20, 2017 – Shelved
February 20, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
June 22, 2017 – Started Reading
June 25, 2017 –
page 93
35.91% "'I seen the colonel meet her for the first time and he stammered like a schoolboy. I don't blame him. It's like being bathed in flames just looking to her, and I ain't even that sort of man would like to kiss her.'"
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: american-west
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: native-american
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: read-2017
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: american-south
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: usa-historical
June 27, 2017 – Shelved as: war-conflict
June 27, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Oh my goodness Julie...this book review is a treasure...I must read this thanks to your review !!


Angela M Lovely, Julie . I have to get to this soon !


message 3: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane Barnes Beautiful review. This was my first Barry book, and turned me into a huge fan.


Julie Christine Jaidee wrote: "Oh my goodness Julie...this book review is a treasure...I must read this thanks to your review !!"

Thank you, sweet friend!


Julie Christine Angela M wrote: "Lovely, Julie . I have to get to this soon !"

He's just amazing. I hope you love this!


Julie Christine Diane wrote: "Beautiful review. This was my first Barry book, and turned me into a huge fan."

Thank you, Diane. Do read 'A Long, Long Way'- it's my favorite of those I've read.


Heidi Just barely into it- enjoying it a lot so far. Your review has me anticipating the rest ;0)


Julie Christine Heidi wrote: "Just barely into it- enjoying it a lot so far. Your review has me anticipating the rest ;0)"

Thank you, Heidi!


message 9: by Lucy C (new)

Lucy C Lane Thanks so much for this Julie. I’ve had this book on my TBR list for a few months, and didn’t know there were several others about the two families. Just came off of the author’s page and they all look fascinating. Would you recommend reading them in any particular order? Thanks again, always appreciate your reviews, and nice to have an author’s viewpoint on a book!


message 10: by Lucy C (new)

Lucy C Lane To clarify on my question: I saw that you have thus far read three of the seven; just wondering if you would recommend another starting point before I jump into this one 😀


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