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Days Without End: A Novel by Sebastian Barry

Days Without End: A Novel (original 2016; edition 2017)

by Sebastian Barry (Author)

Series: McNulty Family (6)

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9486216,743 (4.04)107
Entering the U.S. army after fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland, seventeen-year-old Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, experience the harrowing realities of the Indian wars and the American Civil War between the Wyoming plains and Tennessee.
Title:Days Without End: A Novel
Authors:Sebastian Barry (Author)
Info:Viking (2017), 272 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Days without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)

  1. 20
    Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (pnorth)
  2. 00
    Inland by Téa Obreht (shaunie)
  3. 00
    Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell (alanteder)
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    The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (TheFlamingoReads)
    TheFlamingoReads: Similar story but it takes place in Eastern Europe during WWI. Another beautifully written novel

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
❧ audiobook review

that strange love between us. Like when you fumblin' about in the darkness and you light a lamp, and the light comes up and rescues things. Objects in a room and the face of the man who seem a dug-up treasure to you. John Cole seems a food; bread of Earth. The lamplight touching his eyes and another light answering.

5 HEARTS-IN-MY-EYES STARS for Thomas McNulty, Handsome John Cole, little Winona, and an epic historical fiction novel whose central cast is a gay couple and their adopted daughter.

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. I ain’t got no argument with it, just saying it is so.

*faints from prose fangirling*

We knew what to do with nothing. We were at home there.


Also posted to my blog. ( )
  rjcrunden | Feb 2, 2021 |
Days Without End is a positively radiant piece of gay Civil War fiction. Barry’s colloquial narrative voice is unlike anything I’ve read. I never would have guessed that in my twenties I’d grow fond of Western stories. Thank you, Conner, for recommending News of the World and now this special duology. ( )
  sjanke | Dec 9, 2020 |
At once charming and disturbing in its frankness, this is the story of 17-year-old Thomas and his friend John, who join the army, experiencing first conflict with native tribes in the west and, then fighting in the Civil War. It is a memorable cast of characters they encounter and variously befriend, alienate and adopt as family through the years. To readers who might shy away from something that sounds like a "war story," give this one a try. It is ultimately a story of friendship, love and family. ( )
  ryner | Dec 1, 2020 |
I managed to finish off Sebastian Barry's “Days Without End” and then rattled through the sequel “A Thousand Moons” in literally a day and a half. I'm glad I did as these books are, quite simply, brilliant. They follow two friends, Irish emigre Thomas MaCready and John Cole, as they eke their way out of poverty by rather improbably becoming saloon-bar entertainers for a while, and then ending up in the army, fighting firstly in the Indian Wars and then the American Civil War on the Union side. Along the way they adopt an Indian girl, Winona - a survivor of a massacre they were complicit in - and end up settling on a farm in Tennessee with an old army comrade. Winona's story comes to the fore in “A Thousand Moons”.

What did I enjoy? Well, the characters are incredibly compelling - I found MaCready and Cole flawed but quietly heroic. Barry captures the voices of MaCready and Winona - who are the narrators of the two books - brilliantly. The books move along at an incredible pace and are packed with incident. And both portray the savagery and lawlessness of these times with grim authenticity, particularly the daily risks and fragility of life faced by ex-slaves and the Indians. In fact the latter point means that even in the novels' happier times there is always a sense of impending peril which keeps you hooked. ( )
  antao | Oct 17, 2020 |
“Hunger is a sort of fire, a furnace [...] I loved my father when I was a human person formerly. Then he died and I was hungry and then the ship. Then nothing. Then America. Then John Cole. John Cole was my love, all my love.”


"Caught-His-Horse- First must of gone down into Mexico or Texas raiding because we don't hear nothing about him for a long time. Things just go on. Lot of things in life just like that. I look back over fifty years of life and I wonder where the years went. I guess they went like that, without me noticing much. A man's memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards. I ain't got no argument with it, just saying it is so."


"We got boys here from all corners, mostly eastern men but also some of those states that rub up against Canada. We got farmers, coopers, joiners, settlers. Merchants and sutlers that served the Union cause. They all the same citizen now. Harrowed by hunger and ploughed through by sickness. We got splendid examples of dropsy, scurvy, and the pox. We got ailments of the chest, of the bones, of the arse, of the feet, of the eyes, of the face. Bodies painted with ringworm, lice bites, and a million bugs. Men so sick they are dying of death. Strong men to start that are hard to kill. When you got your scrap of food you got to stuff it down your throat quick march or it will be stole. No cards hardly, no music hardly, only silent stubborn suffering. Men lose their sense and they are lucky. Men are shot for wandering over the death line which is just a row of white sticks near the boundary wall. They don't know where they are. Men stand mute and crazy looking in the mouth of tents with long beards and whiskers. Just stand all day for weeks and weeks and then lie all day. The blacks, Johnny Reb just clean hates these boys. Forty lashes on a wounded soul. Just walk up and shoot them in the head. John Cole he starts to speak but I hushing him time after time."


"When that old ancient Cromwell come to Ireland he said he would leave nothing alive. Said the Irish were vermin and devils. Clean out the country for good people to step into. Make a paradise. Now we make this American paradise I guess. Guess it be strange so many Irish boys doing this work. Ain't that the way of the world. No such item as a virtuous people. "


"Maybe in my deepest soul I believe my own fakery. I suppose I do. I feel a woman more than I ever felt a man, though I were a fighting man most of my days. Got to be thinking them Indians in dresses shown me the path. Could gird in men's britches and go to war. Just a thing that's in you and you can't gainsay. Maybe I took the fortune of my sister when all those times ago I saw her dead. Still as a scrap of seaweed. Her thin legs sticking out. Her ragged pinny. I had never seen such things nor suspected there could ever be such suffering. That was true and it will always be true. But maybe she crept into me and made a nest. It's like a great solace, like great sacks of gold given. My heart beats slowly I do believe. I guess the why is dark as doom but I am just witness to the state of things. I am easy as a woman, taut as a man. All my limbs is broke as a man, and fixed good as a woman. I lie down with the soul of woman and wake with the same. I don't foresee no time where this ain't true no more."


"They were fearsome days then. I am allowed to write John Cole and tell him my news and he comes up from Tennessee but as a condemned man they ain't of a mind to let him see me. I am sore sorry about that but at the same time since I carry John Cole inside I reckoned it must not be allowed to make no odds in the long run. I imagined him near me and I imagined I kissed his face. I imagined he said nice things to me and I imagined me saying back I thought he was the best man I ever knowed. I weren't leaving the world without saying one more time I loved John Cole even if he weren't there to hear it." ( )
  runningbeardbooks | Sep 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Its gaps and fissures, its silences, its elaboration of attachment, separation and loss amount to a profound meditation on the nature of national identity, enforced emigration and the dispersal of a people into lands frequently inhospitable and alienating, there to forge a new life.
added by msjudy | editThe Guardian, Alex Clark (Oct 28, 2016)
Tom’s quirky narrative makes the unthinkable suddenly comprehensible. When he looks at the enemy and sees the unexpected, so do we. “South don’t got uniforms, grits, or oftentimes shoes. Half of these fierce-looking bastards in bare feet. Could be denizens of a Sligo slum-house. God damn it, probably are, some of them..... Grief may freeze the heart, the body be tested to extremes, but where there’s life there’s hope, and love is what makes life worth living, a sentiment that links Barry’s novels across all their times and places....In Days Without End, what Barry makes unforgettable (and unexpectedly relevant) is American history as seen on the back of the tapestry, the untidy side of the weave, the one that makes more of it suddenly make sense.
Barry creates a sense of America as a huge canvas of juxtaposition and possibility, and human life as something similar.
added by ghefferon | editThe New Yorker

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I saw a wayworn trav'ler
In tattered garments clad

John Mathias
I saw a wayworn trav'ler
In tattered garments clad
- John Mathias
For my son Toby
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The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake.
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Entering the U.S. army after fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland, seventeen-year-old Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, experience the harrowing realities of the Indian wars and the American Civil War between the Wyoming plains and Tennessee.

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Book description
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely seventeen, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War.

Having fled terrible hardships they find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both see and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and imperilled when a young Indian girl crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges, if only they can survive.

Moving from the plains of the West to Tennessee, Sebastian Barry's latest work is a masterpiece of atmosphere and language. Both an intensely poignant story of two men and the lives they are dealt, and a fresh look at some of the most fateful years in America's past, Days Without End is a novel never to be forgotten. [Amazon.co.uk]
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