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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6617 comments Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry

Two young immigrants – Thomas from Ireland, and John from England – meet under a shrub during a sudden downpour and become fast friends, and more. The time is the mid-19th century in America, and the boys go from working in a frontier saloon as “dancers” dressed as girls, to joining the Army and serving in both the Indian and Civil Wars. They take on an orphaned Indian girl as their servant and treat her as if she were their own child, forming a family of sorts.

This is a very atmospheric novel. Barry makes the landscape practically come alive, from the wide vistas of the western plains, to the bloody battlefields of the Civil War, and the horrendous conditions of Andersonville Prison.

The narration is done by Thomas, a poorly educated young man, who speaks in a unique dialect (which is made that much more challenging to read by Barry’s lack of quotation marks). Yet I feel privileged to have heard his story in his own words … of love, war, regret, pride, adventure, death and peace. He may have had a very limited education, but he told his story in words that were at times sheer poetry.

I found myself jotting notes and quotes, and reading aloud to my husband passage after passage:
We see a country whose beauty penetrates our bones … in the far distance, we see a land begin to be suggested as if maybe a man was out there painting it with a huge brush.

A man that only got noughts to count, can’t get 1 for an answer.

Words so black they were blacker than dried blood. Remorse not a whit. Killing hurts the heart and soils the soul.

The train moves like a giant dancer for all its bulk.

The palms of her hands like two maps of home, the lines leading homeward like old trails.

Several people in my F2F book club questioned the relationship between John and Thomas, feeling that it was gratuitous and unnecessary. And yet, I found it loving and tender and genuine. Clearly, they meant the world to one another, and felt strongly that Winona was “our daughter.” I was touched by their affection and loyalty. That they could find some joy in their relationship amidst all the horrific experiences of war … well, how could I possibly object to that?

All in all, this is beautiful, poetic, powerful writing that tugs at my heart and alternately disturbs me and cradles me in a loving embrace.

LINK to my review

KateNZ | 2821 comments Such a beautiful review, BC. I’ve had Secret Scripture on my TBR for ages, but this has just joined it :)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6617 comments I've also had The Secret Scripture on my tbr for ages, but it was my F2F book club that got me to finally read a work by Barry. This definitely won't be the last book by him that I read.

Jgrace | 3193 comments Wonderful review. Your last sentence really said it all. The thing that amazed me about this book was that with all the ugliness and brutallity that it portrayed, it didn't leave me feeling depressed or disgusted. Overall, it's a very hopeful story.

Did anyone in your book club realize that Barry had dedicated this book to his gay son? He spoke about it in some of the publication interviews. The strength of the relationship in this book was hardly gratuitous. It was the defining theme.

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6617 comments Jgrace wrote: "Did anyone in your book club realize that Barry had dedicated this book to his gay son? He spoke about it in some of the publication interviews. The strength of..."

Yes ... and we had quite a discussion about it. But one or two members of this book club are stuck in their narrow minds. One just didn't like it because of the relationship; but the other member just kept insisting that this couldn't possibly happen.

Her opinion was that "if this kind of thing really happened there would be many more books about it. But there aren't." I told her there are many books that depict gay relationships, in all eras from ancient Greece to current day. And that there is even an entire subgenre of M-M romance. She was sort of stunned into silence. I'm sure she thinks I made that up.

Booknblues | 7351 comments Great review. I loved this book and like you highlighted many quotes. I never managed to write a review. It was a 5 star book for me. I found it very beautiful.

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