Days Without End
by Sebastian Barry

Faber & Faber

Sebastian Barry isn’t a writer’s writer (although he might be that, too) so much as a writerly writer. Whether you love him or not depends greatly on your feelings about purple-drenched passages of this sort: “The huge fiery sun is working at burning off all this splendid colour and for ten thousand acres of the sky it is mighty successful … Silence so great it hurts your ears, colour so bright it hurts your staring eyes. A vicious ruined class of man could cry at such scenes because it seems to tell him that his life is not approved.” Still, it’s not hard to admire the self-conscious lyrical majesty of sentences that strive to describe awe-inspiring beauty. Like his previous novel, The Temporary Gentleman, Days Without End is a war story, the conflicts in question being the Indian wars and American civil war. Our heroes are Jack McNulty (the narrator) and his comrade, John Cole, who join the American army in 1850, like many other Irishmen. Long of hair and deep of drink, they are distinguished by having “an awful fire burning inside of them”. You feel something similar about Barry, who proses his heart out. Fine writing, but exhausting, too.