A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry
It’s the aftermath of the Civil War in Tennessee and “the time is so dangerous that the law is barely possible”. An Indian girl named Winona is living on a farm with two soldiers who adopted her, their landlord and two recently emancipated black slaves.
Released in March, A Thousand Moons is the latest from a collection of novels Sebastian Barry has written about the lives of the two soldiers; Thomas McNulty and John Cole. It directly follows Days Without End which is one of my favourite books of all time.
Few writers can transport like Sebastian Barry. His dialogue is so true to time and every page is laced with detail. Even the vintage serif font in the Introduction sets the scene for what is essentially a sprawling Western set in dangerous time of change. Slaves have been freed but many people haven’t caught up with the law, including those responsible for upholding it. Indians are barely tolerated and certainly not to be trusted, women have no voice and everyone is dirt poor.
In the midst of this, teenage Winona is pursued and abused by a white man. Violated and traumatised, she gets caught up in a much bigger revenge attack against the State’s biggest group of outlaws. With the courage of her native Indian forebears, this remarkable little character continues to put herself and her adopted family at risk by trying to pursue justice and right wrongs in a lawless state.
This book is pure joy for language lovers like me. As if that isn’t enough, the history of the American Indian Wars and Civil War is fascinating and the themes of racism, identity and justice endure.
Please don’t overlook this book because it is a sequel. In fact, the best way to appreciate A Thousand Moons is to buy it with Days without End because “why in tarnation” wouldn’t you read them both, preferably back to back.
And that’s my 2 cents worth.