Violet wells's Reviews > Days Without End

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
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bookshelves: 21st-century, historical-fiction

Fabulous storytelling and narrative voice. The excitement of this novel told in feverish lyrical prose is unrelenting. We get an intimate first-hand account of the plains wars with the Sioux, the civil war and the lawlessness of the settler towns in the wild west. There’s barely a page in this novel where you’re not fearing for the lives of the novel’s three central characters who form a misfit family – two male lovers and their adopted Indian child. The surface of this novel is dazzling.

Beneath the surface it wasn’t perhaps quite so successful. There’s so much action in this novel that the characters barely have time to talk to each other which means we don’t get to know them very well. And the narrator doesn’t do nuance where his friends are concerned. He’s unremittingly generous. Therefore, we learn little about his companions except that they are flawless human beings, deserving of our full sympathy. In this respect I couldn’t help comparing it a little unfavorably with Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang – another novel narrated lyrically by a semi-educated outcast with lots of exciting plot but also with some great character development – something this novel does lack. For example, the Sioux girl the two men adopt has little more personality than a domestic pet. She adapts to her new life like a domestic pet as well, as if she has no long-term memory. She’s there to make us feel more protective of the characters and though this works as a device one never really sees her or believes much in her. The depiction of the Sioux in general was rather lazy, expedient and erroneously cliched. Barry invents a chief who behaves how the plot needs him to behave. (I’ve read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and watched the excellent TV series Into the West and as far as I recall the real chief at that time would have been Red Cloud who was a lot more savvy and honorable than Barry’s rather slapstick Caught-His-Horse-First.

However, these are small gripes as Days Without End is a riveting read from start to finish. For those who’ve already read and loved this I’d recommend True History of the Kelly Gang.
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Quotes Violet Liked

Sebastian Barry
“Empurpled rapturous hills I guess and the long day brushstroke by brushstroke enfeebling into darkness and then the fires blooming on the pitch plains. In the beautiful blue night there was plenty of visiting and the braves was proud and ready to offer a lonesome soldier a squaw for the duration of his passion. John Cole and me sought out a hollow away from prying eyes. Then with the ease of men who have rid themselves of worry we strolled among the Indian tents and heard the sleeping babies breathing and spied out the wondrous kind called by the Indians winkte or by white men berdache, braves dressed in the finery of squaws. John Cole gazes on them but he don’t like to let his eyes linger too long in case he gives offence. But he’s like the plough-horse that got the whins. All woken in a way I don’t see before. The berdache puts on men’s garb when he goes to war, this I know. Then war over it’s back to the bright dress. We move on and he’s just shaking like a cold child. Two soldiers walking under the bright nails of the stars. John Cole’s long face, long stride. The moonlight not able to flatter him because he was already beautiful.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can’t do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever, all rested and stopped in that moment. Hard to say what I mean by that. You look back at all the endless years when you never had that thought. I am doing that now as I write these words in Tennessee. I am thinking of the days without end of my life. And it is not like that now.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“There’s no soldier don’t have a queer little spot in his wretched heart for his enemy, that’s just a fact.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“I guess love laughs at history a little.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“We were two wood-shavings of humanity in a rough world.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Sebastian Barry
“But I had no idea what I looked like. Children may feel epic and large to theyselves and yet be only scraps to view.”
Sebastian Barry, Days Without End


Reading Progress

September 19, 2017 – Shelved (Kindle Edition)
September 19, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read (Kindle Edition)
November 18, 2017 – Started Reading
November 18, 2017 – Shelved
November 18, 2017 – Shelved as: 21st-century
November 18, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
December 3, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by The (new)

The night gazer nomad do you really work as a translator ?


message 2: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Nothing I'd recommend you read though!


message 3: by Manan (new)

Manan Desai But still how apt it is to be a translator for a bibliophile! Reading books all day long for work as well as for pleasure.


message 4: by Dolors (new)

Dolors Barry is an old friend and you just reacquainted me with him, Violet. I hadn't heard of this novel, and based on what you wrote here (cliché included) I think I would like it.


message 5: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Manan wrote: "But still how apt it is to be a translator for a bibliophile! Reading books all day long for work as well as for pleasure."

I can certainly think of worse jobs, Manan!


message 6: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Dolors wrote: "Barry is an old friend and you just reacquainted me with him, Violet. I hadn't heard of this novel, and based on what you wrote here (cliché included) I think I would like it."

It's only the depiction of Indians that's a bit lame, Dolors, and they don't feature much. It's a beautifully written book, perhaps with one eye on a film deal.


message 7: by Steven (new)

Steven Godin Finely tuned Violet. Apparently there is a script doing the rounds in Hollywood. After the novels success, I guess it's no real surprise.


message 8: by Violet (last edited Dec 03, 2017 06:10AM) (new) - added it

Violet wells Steven wrote: "Finely tuned Violet. Apparently there is a script doing the rounds in Hollywood. After the novels success, I guess it's no real surprise."

My one reservation would be it panders to cinema a bit. The characters are a bit cartoonish, sympathy-magnets rather than fleshed out individuals. Irony is, I suspect the film will be naff because it's the writing that's the most exciting component; the plot is just a bit too contrived and unlikely. The film of the Kelly gang, for example, was infinitely inferior to the book.


message 9: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi A marvelous and insightful review, as always, Violet. I just 'discovered' Barry this year, and this book is definitely in my future reading plans. I'd like to take a look at the other book you've recommended here as well - thank you :)


message 10: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Candi wrote: "A marvelous and insightful review, as always, Violet. I just 'discovered' Barry this year, and this book is definitely in my future reading plans. I'd like to take a look at the other book you've r..."

Thanks Candi. I loved this enough to start another of his books immediately.


message 11: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala I enjoyed your review and comments, Violet - everything you say about Barry’s writing matches my experience of reading him - great prose, and mostly great research but plot twists that sometimes sound like he had a screen play in mind. And it was when he moved his narratives from Ireland to the US that I felt the research a bit shaky - as you’ve noticed here - though I haven’t read this latest book.
I should give the Carey book another chance - I abandoned it though I’ve enjoyed other books of his. I can’t exactly remember why I abandoned it - I’m thinking it was the violence...not of the Kelly Gang but of the Forces of Law and Order. My sympathies for the Kellys couldn’t take it ;-)


message 12: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Fionnuala wrote: "I enjoyed your review and comments, Violet - everything you say about Barry’s writing matches my experience of reading him - great prose, and mostly great research but plot twists that sometimes so..."

I had an almost identical experience with the Kelly Gang. Didn't like it as much as his earlier books,then I read it again and I loved it.


message 13: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope I have only read one Barry and would like to try at least one more, but I doubt it will be this one. Apart from your well develop points I get the sense that this is not a subject the author could claim to know well...


Haley 100% agree with your comments Violet, great review! I added the Kelly Gang book to my to read list, thanks for the excellent recommendation


message 15: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Kalliope wrote: "I have only read one Barry and would like to try at least one more, but I doubt it will be this one. Apart from your well develop points I get the sense that this is not a subject the author could ..."

The evocation of the wild west is hugely impressive, Kal. So much lovely writing. True, his Indians sucked but otherwise I wholly believed in his time and place. His main flaw is maybe he pimps too much for Hollywood in terms of overplotting at the expense of character development. .


message 16: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Haley wrote: "100% agree with your comments Violet, great review! I added the Kelly Gang book to my to read list, thanks for the excellent recommendation"

Thanks Haley!


message 17: by Cheri (last edited Dec 03, 2017 12:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cheri Excellent review, Violet. I've added the Kelly Gang, per your recommendation, Violet. I agree that the parts relating to the Indian wars was lacking, but overall I still really loved this. It's the first, and only one, of his books that I've read so far, and I hope to read more by him.


message 18: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Cheri wrote: "Excellent review, Violet. I've added the Kelly Gang, per your recommendation, Violet. I agree that the parts relating to the Indian wars was lacking, but overall I still really loved this. It's the..."

Thanks Cheri. I'm going to start another one by him tonight as I loved his writing. I'm sure you'll love the Kelly Gang!


Angela M Violet , I’ve read a few of Barry’s earlier books and really loved the writing. Fantastic review. I have read Carey’s book and liked it a lot . I really need to get to this . Thanks for your thoughts.


Jaline This is a very interesting perspective, and I enjoyed reading your review. When I read this book, I felt like I knew the characters intimately through Thomas' voice, and for me, the soft and gentle way he perceived the people in his life gave a brilliant contrast to the brutality of the time. It's always fun to revisit a book I've loved and see it through others' eyes via their reviews. :)


Agnieszka I'm still a bit hesistant about this one, Violet. I've read two other Barry's novels so far and was impressed with his prose and using language. So we'll see. But definitely will bear in mind Carey's title.


message 22: by Fran (new)

Fran Great review, Violet!


message 23: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Angela M wrote: "Violet , I’ve read a few of Barry’s earlier books and really loved the writing. Fantastic review. I have read Carey’s book and liked it a lot . I really need to get to this . Thanks for your thoughts."

Thanks Angela. I've got a hunch you'd love this. I was a bit harsh in my review. I loved reading it.


message 24: by Marjorie (new) - added it

Marjorie I love this author but haven't had a chance to get to this one yet. Will have to bump it up on my TBR list. Wonderful review!


message 25: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Jaline wrote: "This is a very interesting perspective, and I enjoyed reading your review. When I read this book, I felt like I knew the characters intimately through Thomas' voice, and for me, the soft and gentle..."

I was a little harsh, Jaline! I suppose I found the happy family of misfits just a bit sentimental, a bit too Disney - but more as an afterthought; it didn't dampen the huge pleasure I got from reading this.


message 26: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Agnieszka wrote: "I'm still a bit hesistant about this one, Violet. I've read two other Barry's novels so far and was impressed with his prose and using language. So we'll see. But definitely will bear in mind Carey..."

It's virtuoso writing and if you manage to confine yourself to the surface it's a great read. As light entertainment i'd give it five stars.


message 27: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Fran wrote: "Great review, Violet!"

Thanks Fran.


message 28: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Marjorie wrote: "I love this author but haven't had a chance to get to this one yet. Will have to bump it up on my TBR list. Wonderful review!"

Thanks Marjorie. I've just started one of his older books. He can certainly write a good sentence.


message 29: by Adina (new) - added it

Adina Looking forward to read both books. Which one would you start with?


message 30: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Adina wrote: "Looking forward to read both books. Which one would you start with?"

Tough question, Adina! Depends maybe on what you're in the mood for - The Kelly Gang is more literary; Days Without End more straightforwardly enjoyable.


message 31: by Adina (new) - added it

Adina Violet wrote: "Adina wrote: "Looking forward to read both books. Which one would you start with?"

Tough question, Adina! Depends maybe on what you're in the mood for - The Kelly Gang is more literary; Days Witho..."
Both then. :))


message 32: by Svetlana (new)

Svetlana an excellent and very thoughtful review Violet!


message 33: by Violet (new) - added it

Violet wells Svetlana wrote: "an excellent and very thoughtful review Violet!"

Thanks Svetlana.


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