Tn2’s Man Booker Picks: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry The war novel that focuses on the individual over the sweeping cause

Sebastian Barry delivers an incredible novel with Days Without End. Winner of the 2016 Costa Book of the Year, Barry’s ninth novel is now in the running for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. This will be the author’s third time being shortlisted for this prestigious award.

Days Without End is unique as a war novel that concentrates on the individual, the soldier, the man for whom a lover is as – if not more – important as the cause for which he fights; making Sebastian Barry a strong contender for the prize.

The brutal background of the American Civil War conflicts with the mix of eclectic characters and a story woven so beautifully it reads like poetry. As blood is spilt around him, Thomas McNulty navigates his way through his first and only love. As a young man, he leaves behind the tragedy of the Irish Famine which has torn through his family in search of a new life. He meets “handsome John Cole” who fights alongside him as the Confederates wage war against the Union. As an Irish man moving from one scarring experience to the next, Thomas does not dwell on his history and, like his relationship with John, he mentions it freely but infrequently.

Travelling the vast landscapes of the American countryside, Barry follows the boys as they bear witness to combat that shapes them into men. Barry’s skill is found in how he creates moments of pure beauty and delicacy whilst chaos rages around his protagonist. Although violence is a major theme, he never concentrates on it. It is but a backdrop for Thomas’s enthralling experience in a young America.

Even with so many obstacles behind and in front of Thomas, Sebastian Barry makes his journey a delight to read, bringing tears of sorrow and joy to the eyes.

Rating: ●●●●○

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