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Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Book Review)

“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​


Set in the 1850s, Days Without End is a novel that seems to sink into you and curl your insides. America's past is brought to life as we follow Irish immigrant, Thomas McNulty, who joins the US Army as a seventeen-year-old, alongside John Cole of whom he befriends, and a little more besides. They are companions in every sense, and their journey is fraught with danger as they negotiate their paths through both the Indian and Civil wars. Along the way, they become surrogate parents to an Indian girl who crosses their path. A girl who turns into a beauty that everyone admires, but there's no getting away from the fact that she wears the enemies' guise. War is brutal in every way, so horrible it makes soldiers such as them almost welcome death, but they fight on, mile after brutal mile, battle after brutal battle. Barry's first-person narrative is spectacularly descriptive: you can almost feel the hot sun beating down in the summer days and the biting cold in winter that freezes the marrow in their bones. A stunning read from start to finish, at times funny, at times sad, at times thrilling and at times grotesquely uncensored. This is a book that highlights the perils of war and the fate of human lives, but those lives have been forever changed by battle and the American dream, not yet born, will forever owe a debt to the sacrifices made in its inception.

I will certainly be reading this book again at some point. It is so rich and diverse, so alive I want to get lost in it again.

Sebastian Barry


272pp. Faber.

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