A Novel

Book - 2018
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Named a Best Book of the Year by The Sunday Times (UK) * The Guardian (UK) * The Washington Independent Review of Books * Sydney Morning Herald * The Los Angeles Public Library * The Irish Independent * Real Simple *

Finalist for the Rathbones Folio Prize

"Carys Davies is a deft, audacious visionary." --Téa Obreht

When widowed mule breeder Cy Bellman reads in the newspaper that colossal ancient bones have been discovered in the salty Kentucky mud, he sets out from his small Pennsylvania farm to see for himself if the rumors are true: that the giant monsters are still alive and roam the uncharted wilderness beyond the Mississippi River. Promising to write and to return in two years, he leaves behind his only daughter, Bess, to the tender mercies of his taciturn sister and heads west.

With only a barnyard full of miserable animals and her dead mother's gold ring to call her own, Bess, unprotected and approaching womanhood, fills lonely days tracing her father's route on maps at the subscription library and waiting for his letters to arrive. Bellman, meanwhile, wanders farther and farther from home, across harsh and alien landscapes, in reckless pursuit of the unknown.

From Frank O'Connor Award winner Carys Davies, West is a spellbinding and timeless epic-in-miniature, an eerie parable of the American frontier and an electric monument to possibility.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2018.
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781501179341
Branch Call Number: DAVIES C
Characteristics: 149 pages ; 22 cm


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From Library Staff

Recommended by Téa Obreht in fantasticfiction.com
"West proves what in-the-know lovers of her short stories have already been trumpeting: Carys Davies is a deft, audacious visionary, a master of the form. In West, she breaks open our fascination with fated journeys and the irrepressible dra... Read More »

From the critics

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Mar 21, 2020

Just started this book, so I can’t comment on its quality. This comment is directed at the patron who wrote in the book correcting the author. First, get over yourself it’s FICTION. Second, this is a library book. If you want to write your inane comments in a book, go out and buy a copy. This was incredibly disrespectful.

Jan 05, 2019

I like the western as a genre, but there are very few classic novels of the genre. In the past few years there have been some younger writers taking a crack at it, including "The Sisters Brothers," "Haints Stay," and this new novel by Australian writer Carys Davies, which, while short, has an epic feel and a mythological resonance. Davies takes some of the cliches of the genre (a quest, cowboys, Indians, the wilderness) and adds something strange and subtle.

Jul 24, 2018

Inventive short novel that chronicles the adventures of a widowed man in search of what are surely now prehistoric giant animals in the American West and what life is like for the ten-year-old daughter he leaves behind with his sister.

Well written. The novel definitely picks up pace and surprise on the homeward journey. Saw this listed recently among Man Booker long list hopefuls. Not sure the English author captured the West.

Jul 10, 2018

A mini-epic tale set in 1815 in the American West. Running through the story are the themes of extinction of the dinosaurs that Bellman is looking for and of the loss of their land by indigenous peoples. A short but dense book to be read in an afternoon.

Jun 22, 2018

Such a big tale in such a slim book. It has such an epic feel to it. A very thoughtful and well written story.

May 20, 2018

A father leaves his homestead searching for the giant bones of a monster he came across in print. Bellman abandons his budding daughter Bess with his sister Julie. His neighbor Elmer stands in as help when needed. Heading west he takes on a young Native American guide. What transpires starts out as a simple historic "old west" story and ends as a sequence of deeply descriptive and engaging events that leave me with a lasting impression. I can only say it is "greater than the sum of it's parts!"

Apr 22, 2018

In the early 19th century, a widower named Bellman falls in love with the idea of finding a woolly mammoth. Abandoning his young daughter Bess, he sets off into the American West in quest of his dream. Bess, in the meantime, waits for his promised letters, her head also filled with imaginings of her father's voyage. Bess and Bellman's dreams and sorrows intersect with the grief and hopes of Bellman's guide, "an ill-favored, narrow-shouldered Shawnee boy who bore the unpromising name of Old Woman From A Distance”.

I was wonder-struck at how the author managed to pack so much into this slight, episodic novel. Her characters come alive in a line or two and their individual griefs and quests for meaning resonate deeply. My only quibble with the story was that its setting didn't feel as real to me as did the characters. The landscape of Bellman's harsh journey did not come alive for me in the way I'd hoped. Overall though, a highly recommended read.


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