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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

"Days without end" by Sebastian Barry

Thomas McNulty leaves famine torn Ireland for America where he and another boy, handsome John Cole, become dancers in a saloon bar before joining the U.S. Cavalry to fight against Indians. They also become lovers. This last fact is given with extraordinary subtlety with a simple paragraph on page 33 "And then we quietly fucked and then we slept." How fabulously matter of fact.

Narrated by Thomas, this is a gay love story set against the background of the endless prairies of the wild west and the killing grounds of the American Civil War.

And there is extraordinary language and extraordinary descriptions which paint the prairies with vivid and original colours and explore the puzzlement of what it means to be a human. The quotes that follow are a poor selection:

  • "Children may seem epic and large to theyselves and yet be only scraps to view." (p 5)
  • "He was beginning to give giraffes a run for their money, height-wise." (p 14)
  • "pride is the fool's breakfast." (p 31)
  • "Some brave bugler bugled reveille but damn it we were all reveilled by then." (p 49)
  • "You coulda used John Cole for a pencil if you coulda threaded some lead through him." (p 55)
  • "Soldiers coming out of winter have those swimming rheumy eyes of drinkers. Their skins is pale from poor eats." (p 82)
  • "Here was the sockdolager of goddamned feminine mystery." (p 87)
  • "A man's memory might only have a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands." (p 88)
  • "The bow is drawn back and the bowman tries to hold it as taut as he can and then when he is satisfied with the position of his prey he can let the arrow loose. There is a fierce strange moment when the arm can no longer hold the pulled string, and nothing will do but to let it fly, so the bowman must know all the staging posts of his task, or make a bloody hames of it." (p 91)
  • "He never said a thing that wasn't pickled with cusses." (p 92)
  • "That he was a filthy bad singer I have said before ... I do pray that in heaven the singing will be confined to the angels." (p 93)
  • "God's work! Silence so great it hurts your ears, colour so bright it hurts your staring eyes. A vicious ruined class of man could cry at such scenes because it seems to tell him that his life is not approved. The remnant of innocence burns in his breast like a ember of the very sun." (p 94 - 95)
  • "the horses got to be quiet which ain't always in the rulebook of horses." (p 96)
  • "Our suppers greatly desire to travel back up our throats." (p 131)
  • "in a bad mood they might knock you down and stomp on your head till they feel better but you won't." (p 148)
  • "Small man wouldn't be much good for fighting but he good for tightening those screws that start to come loose on the engine of a man when he's facing God knows what." (p 151)
  • "Some bombs fall so low they want a path through us too and many fall in our lines as a missile forges a bloody ditch through living men." (p 155)
  • "A frantic weariness infects our bones." (p 155)
  • "You're belching and the food comes up your gullet like it wants to say hello to the world again." (p 165)
  • "The first cousin of an order is chaos." (p 165)
  • "Beauty lives in the faces of youth. No going round that. Never was a hag yet that man desired." (p 208)
  • "I know I can rely on the kindness of folk along the way. The ones that don't try to rob me will feed me. That's how it is in America." (p 300)


If I gave ratings on this blog this book would have the full five wows.

January 2018; 300 pages

By the same author:
The Secret Scripture: another book full of stunningly poetic prose

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