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A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

A Thousand Moons (edition 2020)

by Sebastian Barry (Author)

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Title:A Thousand Moons
Authors:Sebastian Barry (Author)
Info:Faber & Faber (2020), Edition: Main, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

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Sebastian Barry writes in a certain literary style that you will either warm to or, as in my case, you will find his prose difficult to appreciate. The story is set against the American civil was and concerns a young Lacota Indian girl called Winona Cole who is adopted by William MrNulty and John cole. Through her eyes we are witness to persecution and hatred displayed everyday against a diminishing indigenous Lacota tribe. Whilst the story has merit and the events set against a harsh and unforgiving environment makes for difficult and at times challenging reading, it was not a story I particularly enjoyed. ( )
  runner56 | Jan 14, 2020 |
In A Thousand Moons, Sebastian Barry continues the saga of Thomas McNulty, John Cole, and Winona Cole, who collectively constitute one of the most unlikely family units in literature. Set in the 1870s about a decade after the events described in the author’s magnificent Days Without End, this book is told from the point of view of Winona, a girl from the Lakota tribe who John and Thomas, themselves an unlikely married couple, adopted after her relatives were killed in a military raid. The main story combines a tender coming-of-age tale with three interrelated mysteries—finding out who committed the brutal assaults on two of the main characters, as well as the eventual murder of a third—and how these events impact Winona’s life as she is maturing through her teenage years into adulthood.

I was particularly eager to read this novel because Days Without End was one of the best and most interesting stories I have come across in a long time. Told from Thomas’ perspective in language that was poetic and almost breathtakingly beautiful, that work tells an intimate, engaging, and harrowing tale that is cinematic in its sweep. Unfortunately, A Thousand Moons is not really any of those things and, as a consequence, suffers from the comparison. The main problem is that while Thomas’ narration was so perfectly wrought in that earlier book, the author never really gets Winona’s voice quite right here, vacillating as it does from the broken and stilted sentences of someone coming late to a language to emitting philosophical expressions you might expect from a well-educated person twice her age.

This is also an uneven and much less ambitious story that feels quite claustrophobic at times. Set entirely in the farming community around the small town of Paris, Tennessee, most of the action in the novel is spent describing Winona’s day-to-day routine as she works on the family farm, keeps the books for a local attorney, and tries to solve the central mysteries in her spare time. Much of what transpires in the story was simply not that interesting and the resolution to the crimes comes quite late in the book and is not much of a surprise. (In fact, only two of the three mysteries are concluded definitively; the resolution to the third is referred to in a very oblique manner.) Finally, the character of Peg, a Chickasaw Indian girl who becomes Winona’s friend and companion, is drawn far too sketchily given her importance to the tale.

So, while A Thousand Moons is a good book that merits attention, it falls short of the high standard that its talented author has set for himself. It may be possible to treat this as a standalone work, but the truth is that it contains so many references to events that occurred in Days Without End that the story might make less sense if read in isolation. I certainly enjoyed becoming immersed again in the lives of these beloved characters, but this was not a wholly satisfying reading experience for me. ( )
  browner56 | Jan 10, 2020 |
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