West
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.

West Details

TitleWest
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 24th, 2018
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501179341
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction

West Review

  • Hannah Greendale
    January 1, 1970
    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Cy Bellman reads of monstrous bones discovered in the Kentucky mud and is compelled to leave his Pennsylvania farm on horseback to behold the mammoth creatures with his own eyes. Though his journey is recounted briefly, and the few pages of this slim novel must be shared with Bellman’s ten-year-old daughter and a Shawnee boy, Davies weaves a story both perilous and impassioned, one that grips you to the fin Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Cy Bellman reads of monstrous bones discovered in the Kentucky mud and is compelled to leave his Pennsylvania farm on horseback to behold the mammoth creatures with his own eyes. Though his journey is recounted briefly, and the few pages of this slim novel must be shared with Bellman’s ten-year-old daughter and a Shawnee boy, Davies weaves a story both perilous and impassioned, one that grips you to the final page and exudes the eminence of a legendary tale.Highly recommend this riveting read in which heroes take unexpected form and hope glimmers on the horizon.
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars.Inspired by Lewis and Clark’s expedition in the early 19th century, ten years later Cy Bellman, a grieving widower, leaves Pennsylvania and his 10 year old daughter Bess on an expedition to the West, on a quest for the huge animals that he thought might exist when he learns that large fossils have been found. What would possess a man to leave his young daughter with his sister alone on his mule breeding farm was beyond my imagination. For Cy it was a calling : “ I have to go. I have to 4.5 stars.Inspired by Lewis and Clark’s expedition in the early 19th century, ten years later Cy Bellman, a grieving widower, leaves Pennsylvania and his 10 year old daughter Bess on an expedition to the West, on a quest for the huge animals that he thought might exist when he learns that large fossils have been found. What would possess a man to leave his young daughter with his sister alone on his mule breeding farm was beyond my imagination. For Cy it was a calling : “ I have to go. I have to go and see. That’s all I can tell you . I have to.” He read an article with “no illustrations , but in his mind ...the monstrous bones, the prodigious tusks, uncovered where they lay ...A creature entirely unknown.” So he sets out alone bearing gifts and trinkets for any Native Americans he might meet along the way. He connects with a young Swanee boy, an unforgettable character and together they trek across thousands of miles, through brutal winters and harsh conditions. The narrative alternatives between Bellman’s journey and Bess’s perspective as she waits for her father to return. She’s a lonely girl without friends who goes to the library to learn what she can about her father’s quest. All the while facing danger herself. This novella is filled with so many emotions - sadness, grief, loneliness, regret, hope. In its brevity, it tells a sad, yet captivating and satisfying story. Well written and I highly recommend it.I received an advanced copy of this book from Scribner through Edelweiss.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    From Pennsylvania to Kentucky, that is the goal of Bellman after reading in newspapers the discovery of some huge bones from an animal never seen before.A widower, he leaves his ten year old daughter in the care of his taciturn sister, planning to be gone two years or so. Hiring a young Indian boy with the stange name Old woman from a distance, he sets out into unknown territory. Bess,tries to follow her father's journey n maps she located in the library. While Bellman finds dangers in the cold, From Pennsylvania to Kentucky, that is the goal of Bellman after reading in newspapers the discovery of some huge bones from an animal never seen before.A widower, he leaves his ten year old daughter in the care of his taciturn sister, planning to be gone two years or so. Hiring a young Indian boy with the stange name Old woman from a distance, he sets out into unknown territory. Bess,tries to follow her father's journey n maps she located in the library. While Bellman finds dangers in the cold, harsh winters with it's lack of food, his daughter encounters danger of a different kind.Man's curiousity, and the quest to find something larger than ones own life has been the basis for many adventurers and explorers. This novel is gorgeously told, the wonderful and the characters ters treated with a great deal of empathy. A short story that contains much, a story filled with both wonder and danger. As Bellman thinks to himself, trying to explain his willingness to leave his daughter and his home"Now he wondered if it was because it seemed possible that, through the giant animals,a door into the mystery of the world would somehow be opened. There were times,out here in the west, when he lay down at night and, wrapped in his coat, he'd look up at the sky, it's wash of stars, gaze up at the bright, broken face of the moon and wonder what might be up there too,---what he'd find if he could just decide a way of getting up there to look."There are some great descriptions of the natural world he encounters, and a yearning in his thoughts to be more, see more. Another quiet story that encompasses the feelings of those who leave and those who stay behind.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 “Pre-Light-Pollution” Stars“I dip my cup of soup back from a gurgling crackling cauldron in some train yardMy beard ruff and then a cold pile and aAnd a dirty hat pulled low across my faceThrough cupped hands, 'round a tin canI pretend to hold you to my breast and findThat you're wavin' from the back roadsEver smiling, ever gentle on my mind”-- Gentle on My Mind, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Songwriters: John HartfordWhen John Cyrus Bellman first read about the giant bones that had been disc 4.5 “Pre-Light-Pollution” Stars“I dip my cup of soup back from a gurgling crackling cauldron in some train yardMy beard ruff and then a cold pile and aAnd a dirty hat pulled low across my faceThrough cupped hands, 'round a tin canI pretend to hold you to my breast and findThat you're wavin' from the back roadsEver smiling, ever gentle on my mind”-- Gentle on My Mind, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Songwriters: John HartfordWhen John Cyrus Bellman first read about the giant bones that had been discovered in Kentucky, he could not stop thinking about them, about the discovery and what it meant that these giant animal bones existed, also meant these creatures had walked the earth of Kentucky. Perhaps others were still walking in those undiscovered places in this still young country, it’s vastness still unexplored in this age. He had to see with his own eyes. Bellman was a big man, tall and broad that stood out even more for his red hair and a substantial beard whose colour was a slightly deeper shade. That he made his living by breeding mules seemed to fit him. His daughter, Bess, was ten years old the day he left on his horse, and as he explains to her and to his sister who will now be in charge of watching over Bess, he will be gone at least a year, possibly two years. Neither Bess nor Julie, her aunt, had predicted this long a trip, thinking in terms of months, not years. Bess immediately thinks of the fact that in two years, she will be twelve. A long time, especially, for a girl who has already lost her mother. Her aunt thinks her father is a fool, but Bess sees him as brave and resolute, a man with a purpose. A grand adventure awaits him. She only wishes he had taken her, as well. And so he leaves his home of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and follows the path he’s studied in the library books and their maps. He doesn’t carry much, some baubles and trinkets to exchange for food with the natives he’s assured he’ll meet along the way. A shirt of his deceased wife, a thimble, some knitting needles, and begins his journey, heading toward the Missouri River to follow its path, and the journey of Lewis and Clark. Every now and then he meets someone along the road and sketches an outline of his imagined view of how these giant beasts might look in the dirt, gesturing toward the trees to indicate their size and asking if they’ve seen these gigantic creatures, but no one has.A smallish seventeen year-old Shawnee, slightly bowlegged young man named Old Woman From A Distance,” becomes Bellman’s paid assistant and companion, and together they take the reader on a journey through a way of life that no longer exists. I loved this, I loved the slow pacing of this journey, the ins and outs of the days, even when their days held no discovery, and when they were fraught with peril. I loved this journey in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark’s expedition, and re-setting my mind into an era so far removed from the one we live in. I loved reading the alternate sides of this story, where Bellman and Old Woman From a Distance were struggling along their journey under rough conditions, and Bess struggling under her own circumstances as time passes. And I loved the little things, such as when Old Woman sees the writing of Bess's name in a letter from her father, he sees them as the shapes he finds in nature: "...the sideways hills, the half-closed eyes, the two small, wriggling snakes." I loved Bess, hoped and prayed alongside her as she hopes and prays for her father’s return, left in the care of a woman whose only concern is for her own life.Beautifully written, this is a lovely, poignant, “slender” debut novel set in the American frontier, a time of exploration, an era filled with dangers of its own, wilderness, isolation, ignorance, hostile surroundings and the dangers - and beauty - found in this world.Pub Date: 24 Apr 2018Many thanks for the ARC provided by Scribner Books / Simon & Schuster
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    5 Wild, Wild West stars to West by Carys Davies! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 This bold, unforgettable story is short on pages, but huge on impact! I’m going to try my best to keep my review brief, too, so I leave the reader to explore from scratch this marvelous adventure in storytelling. Cy Bellman leaves his home and young daughter in Pennsylvania to head west. Told in his perspective, as well as his daughter’s, West is full of emotion, heart, adventure, danger, hope, and wonder. It was a book I devoured in one 5 Wild, Wild West stars to West by Carys Davies! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 This bold, unforgettable story is short on pages, but huge on impact! I’m going to try my best to keep my review brief, too, so I leave the reader to explore from scratch this marvelous adventure in storytelling. Cy Bellman leaves his home and young daughter in Pennsylvania to head west. Told in his perspective, as well as his daughter’s, West is full of emotion, heart, adventure, danger, hope, and wonder. It was a book I devoured in one sitting, and I was left feeling completely transported to a different time and place with flawless writing and flawed, but lovable characters. It gets my highest recommendation and is a most huggable book. Thank you to Carys Davies (please keep writing!), Scribner, and Edelweiss for the ARC. West will be released on April 24, 2018!
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 In the early 19th century, a restless widower named Cy Bellman leaves his farm and ten year old daughter in the care of his sister and heads from Pennsylvania out WEST, in search of mammoth animals that he has read about, it’s a need that consumes him.The story of his journey and also that of his daughter while he is gone is a rough one and filled with much loneliness and grief.I loved it!Thank you to Scribner through Edelweiss!
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    John Cyrus Bellman had an adventurous spirit. Having left Britain, he became a mule breeder in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Bellman, a widower, lived with his ten year old daughter Bess. Bellman's so called hum drum existence was kicked up a notch when he read about colossal animal bones discovered in Kentucky. In the early nineteenth century, a journey of discovery was a monumental undertaking, one that he welcomed.Bellman perused the journals of Lewis and Clark in the local subscription library no John Cyrus Bellman had an adventurous spirit. Having left Britain, he became a mule breeder in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Bellman, a widower, lived with his ten year old daughter Bess. Bellman's so called hum drum existence was kicked up a notch when he read about colossal animal bones discovered in Kentucky. In the early nineteenth century, a journey of discovery was a monumental undertaking, one that he welcomed.Bellman perused the journals of Lewis and Clark in the local subscription library noting unexplored areas. He planned to follow the Missouri River while taking side trips to check out some uncharted regions. He bought a stovepipe hat thinking that the tall hat would make him appear powerful and imposing. His only companion was a hired guide, a suspicious seventeen year old Shawnee boy named Old Woman from a Distance.Ten year old Bess must fend for herself. Her tight-lipped, bible toting Aunt Julie will be her caregiver for the duration of Bellman's absence. Bess is not allowed to attend school and must fight tooth and nail to be allowed to visit the subscription library in order to view maps and journals enabling her to imagine and envision her father's journey west. An unsavory, leering librarian waives her subscription fee.Enthusiasm and obsession with finding large animal fossils drives Bellman's journey. The stark, beautiful landscape is challenging. Equally challenged is Bess, trying to navigate her life after being left with an unfriendly, judgmental aunt. "West" by Carys Davies is an excellent, amazing debut novel I highly recommend.Thank you Scribner and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "West".
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    A high 4 starsCarys Davies writes beautifully in simple and precise prose. It was a pleasure to read West for that reason alone. West is very short — barely a novel, really — but it conveys a lot. Set many years back in the US, Cy who is a widower leaves his daughter Bess in the care of his sister to seek out giant mammoth like creatures he has recently read about. It’s a fool’s journey. West feels like an allegory about the unintended consequences of foolish journeys. Heartbreak, missed message A high 4 starsCarys Davies writes beautifully in simple and precise prose. It was a pleasure to read West for that reason alone. West is very short — barely a novel, really — but it conveys a lot. Set many years back in the US, Cy who is a widower leaves his daughter Bess in the care of his sister to seek out giant mammoth like creatures he has recently read about. It’s a fool’s journey. West feels like an allegory about the unintended consequences of foolish journeys. Heartbreak, missed messages, regrets and, despite everything, the need to carry on. I will definitely read more by Davies. She is quite a writer. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • PattyMacDotComma
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 to 3★“Bellman loved this story, felt strengthened by it—the notion that whatever your own idea of the known world, there were always things outside it you hadn’t dreamed of.”John Cyrus Bellman has a compulsion to go West to seek the big creatures he’s heard about in the news. He was captivated by the Lewis and Clark expedition and feels drawn to follow. He’s a farmer in the 1800s, a widower for many years with a ten-year-old daughter, Bess. The book opens with her begging her father not to l 2.5 to 3★“Bellman loved this story, felt strengthened by it—the notion that whatever your own idea of the known world, there were always things outside it you hadn’t dreamed of.”John Cyrus Bellman has a compulsion to go West to seek the big creatures he’s heard about in the news. He was captivated by the Lewis and Clark expedition and feels drawn to follow. He’s a farmer in the 1800s, a widower for many years with a ten-year-old daughter, Bess. The book opens with her begging her father not to leave her home alone with his sister, whom she doesn’t like very much.Bellman make sympathetic noises and says he’ll be gone ‘only’ a year or so – two at the most. He is obsessed with his trip, pores over maps, explains to Bess and Julie where he’s going (west) and what he’s taking (trinkets) and what he hopes to finally find (dinosaurs). Well WE know they are dinosaur bones, but he just knows them as gigantic creatures. We don’t really know why he’s obsessed either.He has rather casually informed his sister that she is to move into their house, on their farm, to look after Bess and the livestock. Elmer next door has been told to look in on them to help. Bellman tells Bess and his sister that if they must have cash, they can sell his wife’s wedding ring and the family clock on the wall. (At a later point in the book, Bess realises she can’t sell the clock without her aunt noticing it’s missing, but that’s just one of her many frustrations.) The story weaves back and forth between Bellman on his journey of discovery and Beth growing up bored and lonely in a small town. She discovers the library because she wants to trace her father’s steps on a map, but the librarian is an unsavoury fellow.Bellman meets up with a teenaged Indian, who acts as a guide, despite their having no common language. Bellman is fanciful in the extreme, and had the Indian not been a competent hunter, they would both have starved early in the piece.There are some nice passages, and I believe the author has written good short stories. I might have enjoyed small sections of this in some sort of story form, but it seemed like an idea that was being padded out with a lot of generic western trapper-trader-explorer stories, and some didn’t ring true for me. My mother was a real Lewis and Clark aficionado, and also collected ‘mountain man’ books, so I did grow up hearing about them. And I never heard of gorse before I went to New Zealand, so to have Bellman and the Indian throwing their clothes over gorse bushes to dry sounded odd, so I looked it up. It seems gorse was brought from Europe to the east coast of America as a garden hedging plant in the 1800s, but only to the coasts. I haven’t found anything to suggest it was anywhere near where our wild-eyed adventurer was. That’s just one particular example of the many places in the story that were either inaccurate, inconsistent, or unlikely, so I nearly didn’t finish it. But when it was appropriate, I enjoyed the author’s imagination. Desperate for her father to come home, Bess thinks of him every day and night.“In the darkness and the quiet Bess could hear the ticking of the wall clock. When she closed her eyes she still saw a picture of what the clock looked like after her father had ridden away—when she’d turned at last to go back into the house, it had its arms flung out across its big round face, one pointing one way and one in the opposite direction, as if one hand was pointing west and the other east. In daylight, there was a different time she liked more than any other and she did everything she could to be in the house when it arrived: the time when the bigger of the two hands crept slowly through the 12 until it joined the smaller one, both of them pointing east.”Thanks to NetGalley and Granta Publications for the copy for review from which I’ve quoted. I’m sure a reader who's less of a fuss-pot will enjoy the characters and the premise. Meanwhile, maybe an editor might fix the inconsistencies in tenses, as well.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    This short novel, provides a detailed picture of a moment in time, early in the 19th century, as the United States is a nation on the edge of wilderness, beginning to push further into that unknown area. John Cyrus Bellman, of Pennsylvania, becomes enraptured by a story he sees at the town subscription library. Large bones, including apparent tusks, have been unearthed in Kentucky. Cyrus is a dreamer; he has already left England for America. Now he has a new dream: to see these enormous living c This short novel, provides a detailed picture of a moment in time, early in the 19th century, as the United States is a nation on the edge of wilderness, beginning to push further into that unknown area. John Cyrus Bellman, of Pennsylvania, becomes enraptured by a story he sees at the town subscription library. Large bones, including apparent tusks, have been unearthed in Kentucky. Cyrus is a dreamer; he has already left England for America. Now he has a new dream: to see these enormous living creatures for himself. And where would they be? In the West, most of which remains largely unknown to Americans. Only the Indians live out there.To live this dream, Cyrus must leave his 10 year old daughter, Bess, behind, in the care of his disapproving sister, Julie, for possibly two years. In his obsession with his goal, two years of his daughter's life is an insignificant cost.The details of life in the town, on the mule ranch with Bess and Julie and the hired hand, and on the long journey with Bellman all strike a realistic chord. The various people in all the settings are a realistic combination of good and bad, caring and uncaring. The story alternates viewpoints among Bess, her father, the hired hand, Julie, occasional people Bellman meets on the trail. And while I did anticipate a part of the ending, I did not guess it all. While there are some coincidences within the story's structure and possible hints of forward thinking, I found them easy to forgive. For the most part this novel seems rooted in its time.West is an interesting look into the American past and into the spirit of the dreamers and explorers who still search today for new places and creatures, but now look deep in the oceans or beyond our world altogether.A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    You can see my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres..."Thou hast seen nothing yet.” ( Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote)The spirit of adventure and discovery lies within all of us. Some of us discover from the comforts of our own home, or through a book, or perhaps even a trip, while others go out and do try to tilt those windmills. Like the character Don Quixote, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, looks to adventure and discovery. He reads of the discovery of colossal bones in K You can see my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres..."Thou hast seen nothing yet.” ( Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote)The spirit of adventure and discovery lies within all of us. Some of us discover from the comforts of our own home, or through a book, or perhaps even a trip, while others go out and do try to tilt those windmills. Like the character Don Quixote, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, looks to adventure and discovery. He reads of the discovery of colossal bones in Kentucky and he needs to find these animals. Cy is a widower, a father to a ten year old daughter, Bess. However, he can't deny himself this journey into the unknown. This was a time where land was unknown and dangers existed in the journey Cy has determined he needs to make.Cy leaves his daughter in the care of a straight laced aunt, but does promise to return in two years and of course write of his adventure. Bess is left with little other than a gold ring and the farm and of course her aunt. She joins a subscription library and through it tries to trace the route her father has taken. Bess is growing into womanhood and there are some who have dangerous desires towards her. She too, is alone and needs the same strength to survive.This very short book was a look into the times when a great part of this country remained a mystery. It was a story of a man who looked into the possibility of finding these massive creatures so much so that it consumed him. Some of us live for a dream, others of us pursue that dream, no matter where or how it will leave them or the people they have left behind. Thanks once again to my local library for purchasing a copy of this wonderful book! "Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit." (Frank Borman)
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 1, 1970
    I first became aware of West from a rave review in The Sunday Times. Its editor Andrew Holgate said that he hadn't felt as strongly about a novel since Golden Hill, and given how much I enjoyed that wonderful book, I had to see if he was on the money again.The action takes place in America of the early 19th century. In the opening chapter, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, is saying goodbye to his young daughter Bess. He has read a newspaper article describing enormous bones discovered in Kentucky, an I first became aware of West from a rave review in The Sunday Times. Its editor Andrew Holgate said that he hadn't felt as strongly about a novel since Golden Hill, and given how much I enjoyed that wonderful book, I had to see if he was on the money again.The action takes place in America of the early 19th century. In the opening chapter, Cy Bellman, a mule breeder, is saying goodbye to his young daughter Bess. He has read a newspaper article describing enormous bones discovered in Kentucky, and cannot rest until he sees these giant beasts for himself. He leaves Bess with his disapproving sister and sets off from his Pennsylvania home, promising to be back within two years. Bess pines for her father while he is away, watching out for his letters and imagining the wild adventures he is having. Cy's journey takes some unexpected turns and he endures his fair share of setbacks. There are times when he wonders if he made the right choice: "You had so many ways of deciding which way to live your life. It made his head spin to think of them. It hurt his heart to think that he had decided on the wrong way." It's a short book, just 160 pages long - minimal in style, yet epic in scope. We follow Cy's perilous journey across the great American plains, hoping against hope that it will prove fruitful. Yet there is an undercurrent of disquiet throughout, a sense that things won't end well. But I have one major problem with the story (view spoiler)[I never truly believed that a poor, widowed rancher would leave his only daughter behind for such a reckless and foolish pursuit. The author never really convinced me of this. (hide spoiler)] The plot moves at a fair clip and it really speeds up in the last few chapters - I was flipping the pages in a frenzy to get to the end. Overall, West is entertaining, lyrical historical fiction. I did enjoy it and I do think it's worth reading, but the heavy praise has a me a little bemused.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    If you are new to Carys Davies, I will please beg you to read her short story collection, The Redemption of Galen Pike, which is a standout on numerous levels. I was less interested in the story of this short novel, but it was still good. A man leaves his daughter with his sister after his wife dies, in search of the creatures described in travel accounts from men traveling west. The daughter Bess seems to be the focus of the novel, but unfortunately she is also the focus of leering men in her l If you are new to Carys Davies, I will please beg you to read her short story collection, The Redemption of Galen Pike, which is a standout on numerous levels. I was less interested in the story of this short novel, but it was still good. A man leaves his daughter with his sister after his wife dies, in search of the creatures described in travel accounts from men traveling west. The daughter Bess seems to be the focus of the novel, but unfortunately she is also the focus of leering men in her life (two seemed like overkill here; it seemed strange for her to have no allies) and her aunt is not aware enough of what is going on. The ending left me unsatisfied; it feels either too long or incomplete.Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through Edelweiss. It came out April 24, 2018.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    This piece of historical fiction, an account of a man who leaves his life to search for dinosaurs in the unknown lands beyond the Mississippi river, manages to be both dreamlike and ploddingly real. Both the man and the language are spare and basic, they step carefully along their path, each reflecting the other, but slowly move beyond the cautious into the wilderness and possibility of the undetermined self. It is cleverly done, if not always as gripping as you might expect from such a journey, This piece of historical fiction, an account of a man who leaves his life to search for dinosaurs in the unknown lands beyond the Mississippi river, manages to be both dreamlike and ploddingly real. Both the man and the language are spare and basic, they step carefully along their path, each reflecting the other, but slowly move beyond the cautious into the wilderness and possibility of the undetermined self. It is cleverly done, if not always as gripping as you might expect from such a journey, but the interspersed moments of his daughter's story are where the emotion of the novel transforms into an ache in your chest. Her loss, her sheer bewilderment as her life turns from merely upside down to downright dangerous, is wrapped up in her own stoic nature and determined optimism about her father's return. For me, it was her experience that made the novel, not a man's midlife crisis, but the young girl at the mercy of the wilful decisions of those around her. While it didn't always maintain the heights to which it aspired, this was an intriguing short novel, with the kind of characterisation that promises much from the author in the future.ARC via Netgalley
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  • Diane Barnes
    January 1, 1970
    You can read the plot synopsis on the GR description, so I will just say that I really love this author's style. Very understated and simple, but she says so much in so few words. This book is 166 pages, but it almost felt like an epic adventure story. I understood these characters completely. And the juxtaposition of the father's journey and the daughter's life at home was another factor. The conclusion was perfect for me, and left me with indelible images to carry in my mind. I've not read her You can read the plot synopsis on the GR description, so I will just say that I really love this author's style. Very understated and simple, but she says so much in so few words. This book is 166 pages, but it almost felt like an epic adventure story. I understood these characters completely. And the juxtaposition of the father's journey and the daughter's life at home was another factor. The conclusion was perfect for me, and left me with indelible images to carry in my mind. I've not read her short stories, but I think this writer is one to watch.
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  • Annie Rosewood
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Finishing this novel has at once made me speechless as well as making me want to write an essay because there is so much that I could say about it. This novel is about extinction - of a species, of a people, and of that intangible something that lingers within us and propels us to pursue something greater than ourselves. I loved the pacing and the way that Davies describes the silent beauty of nature and the tender interactions between the characters. There is nothing flowery or sentimental Wow. Finishing this novel has at once made me speechless as well as making me want to write an essay because there is so much that I could say about it. This novel is about extinction - of a species, of a people, and of that intangible something that lingers within us and propels us to pursue something greater than ourselves. I loved the pacing and the way that Davies describes the silent beauty of nature and the tender interactions between the characters. There is nothing flowery or sentimental here, just a bare and quiet eloquence and subtle poignancy.I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jeanette
    January 1, 1970
    This was enjoyable to read. It may be simplistic to review it this way, but I found it to resemble an American style fairy tale. Not like the European with ogres, vampires, viscous Royals etc. But one in which the practical and natural realities of North American territory 12 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition- sets the stage for its own type of "good" guy hero and "bad guy" perp. And victims and side animals (like Cinderella's birds making her gown /Disney) all play character roles in the This was enjoyable to read. It may be simplistic to review it this way, but I found it to resemble an American style fairy tale. Not like the European with ogres, vampires, viscous Royals etc. But one in which the practical and natural realities of North American territory 12 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition- sets the stage for its own type of "good" guy hero and "bad guy" perp. And victims and side animals (like Cinderella's birds making her gown /Disney) all play character roles in the same sort of way. The critters may or may not get names, but they are full characters for the roles they play regardless.And I'm going to tell you very little else about this novella length gem. Because you can discover if the search was worth it or not for yourself. I think the premise for the journey was a full 5.The prose is simple and yet pristine. Perfect for the wildness of the surroundings too at the same time. It lost 1/2 a star for me in the jumpiness of not knowing for those 20 pages just past the 3/4th point of the book. But I guess that helped the tension and the utter timeliness of the ending. I just prefer the most chronological, I guess.Yet the entire tone for the protagonist is 5 star. His "eyes" American and "can do" in a finite sense of leaving all the erudite and old school/ old world theories behind. It's a new belief of inspiration and aspiration at its core!The ending was just as it should be for a fairy tale too. It gives cause for your supreme sighing after it is all over that it turned out to equate some justice. Whew, close call!Which seems more and more difficult to provide against the law breakers and violent assault nasties now than it did then.4.5 stars and I'd read another by this author any time.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    John Cyrus Bellman left his Lewiston, PA farm and his only child to embark on a quest into the west. He knew he would be gone at least two years. Was he a fool, like his sister judged, or romantic and adventurous, as he appeared to his daughter Bess? Bellman's desire to see undiscovered country was rooted in a longing to find the living creatures whose huge bones had been discovered in Kentucky. He had already crossed an ocean, from England to America, built a farm, had a child, and lost a wife. John Cyrus Bellman left his Lewiston, PA farm and his only child to embark on a quest into the west. He knew he would be gone at least two years. Was he a fool, like his sister judged, or romantic and adventurous, as he appeared to his daughter Bess? Bellman's desire to see undiscovered country was rooted in a longing to find the living creatures whose huge bones had been discovered in Kentucky. He had already crossed an ocean, from England to America, built a farm, had a child, and lost a wife. But the West beckoned with its mysteries and he could no longer stay put.Bellman studied the Lewis and Clark Expedition maps at the subscription library. His plan was to follow their trail...but to diverge into the vast spaces they had left unstudied. He was certain he would find the mammoth creatures alive. He packed up trading items and set off on his journey, leaving his daughter and farm to his sister's care.Carys Davies novel West takes readers across hostile landscapes both wild and settled. As Bellman faces cruel winters and lean seasons, accompanied only by a Native American boy, back in Lewistown his daughter Bess survives in an isolated land without parental love or friends. Bess dreams of her father's travels, longing to see the library maps herself. And, unprotected in the world, as Bess nears puberty, men watch her and wait and scheme.Bellman's decision to go on his journey seemed to me at once a quest and an escape, resulting in a "night sea journey" recognition of what he had given up in leaving his known world. He struggles with the choices he made, realizing that sometimes we set our mind on what seems important only to realize we have been mistaken in our values.The novel is beautifully written. I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Samuel Bigglesworth
    January 1, 1970
    This was wonderful....John Williams and Hemingway are no longer with us, but we have another great writer of sparse careful prose and grand themes in Carys Davies.This deserves a slow and careful read, give your mind time to fill in the blanks between the words with your own imagination.I am tempted to re-read this straight away.Similar in many ways to Butcher's Crossing by John WilliamsThere is a tense change on page 76 (hardcover print) from past to present. This vaguely fits in with the timel This was wonderful....John Williams and Hemingway are no longer with us, but we have another great writer of sparse careful prose and grand themes in Carys Davies.This deserves a slow and careful read, give your mind time to fill in the blanks between the words with your own imagination.I am tempted to re-read this straight away.Similar in many ways to Butcher's Crossing by John WilliamsThere is a tense change on page 76 (hardcover print) from past to present. This vaguely fits in with the timeline but then it changes back to past tense again. This was jarring and unnecessary... why do that?? I nearly dropped a star for it, but it picked back up and the ending was so fitting that it has to be five stars
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    Now that’s storytelling! WEST reminded me a little of NEWS OF THE WORLD and was a true epic-in-miniature. The perfect pre-flight length read, too.
  • Shawn Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    A rich, nuanced epic in miniature of the American west. In 1815 a silly man leaves behind his young daughter in Pennsylvania, and his widower grief, traveling afar in search of live dinosaurs. Davies spins a spare novel out of the essential American threads of idiotic settler maleness, racism, sexual violence, and genocide. Oscar Wilde said “I cannot think otherwise than in stories.“ I say that from here on in I shall be unable to think about America without casting my thoughts back upon this no A rich, nuanced epic in miniature of the American west. In 1815 a silly man leaves behind his young daughter in Pennsylvania, and his widower grief, traveling afar in search of live dinosaurs. Davies spins a spare novel out of the essential American threads of idiotic settler maleness, racism, sexual violence, and genocide. Oscar Wilde said “I cannot think otherwise than in stories.“ I say that from here on in I shall be unable to think about America without casting my thoughts back upon this novel.Thanks to Netgalley for the e-book received in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Christine Boyer
    January 1, 1970
    I guess I just feel a bit duped. I saw this beautiful scene on the cover and thought it would be some adventurous foray into the west and all its glorious flora and fauna. Also the book jacket and comments on Goodreads made it sound like a pioneer on his free-spirited, panoramic journey during the early 1800's. Cool. Then I started reading...wait, WTF? This book is DARK, people, dark. Sad, sad. Uncomfortable. The four main characters are dealing with their own, lonely private hell. And P.S., I d I guess I just feel a bit duped. I saw this beautiful scene on the cover and thought it would be some adventurous foray into the west and all its glorious flora and fauna. Also the book jacket and comments on Goodreads made it sound like a pioneer on his free-spirited, panoramic journey during the early 1800's. Cool. Then I started reading...wait, WTF? This book is DARK, people, dark. Sad, sad. Uncomfortable. The four main characters are dealing with their own, lonely private hell. And P.S., I didn't know so many pedophiles were lurking around the bushes back then. Now, at least I was NOT duped about it being a short story (if you don't like short stories you will HATE this) I went in thinking, oh, how clever, Davies is writing an epic of a journey westward in a short story format! Wow, how will she do that? Doesn't "epic" translate to "long"? Well, one way she did it was like this: then it was winter, then it was spring, then it was another winter again. I guess that avoids all the "over-description" that I'm irritated about all the time, so I suppose I should be happy. But I felt like I was on fast-forward.Okay, now that I got that out of my system - the positive. Davies created solid characters quickly and deeply. She also put together some powerful prose. And typical short story - the ending is open to interpretation. Loved it. Best part - this book will make you think. Think about the choices you make as a parent, child, friend. Do you follow your dreams at the expense of those you love? Is the grass always greener on the other side? Who do you trust and why do you trust them? How do you know when you're satisfied? What is our duty to people we know and those we don't? Who deserves to be happy?
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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    Cy Bellman is a mule breeder from England who has settled in Pennsylvania with his wife Elsie and sister Julie. Elsie died after giving birth to their daughter Bess. When Bess is 10, Bellman suddenly becomes obsessed with newspaper accounts of the discovery of dinosaur bones in Kentucky. He believes that the giant creatures might still exist, undiscovered in the unexplored territories of the west. So the fool sets out on his folly to find the beasts, leaving Bess with her unpleasant aunt and at Cy Bellman is a mule breeder from England who has settled in Pennsylvania with his wife Elsie and sister Julie. Elsie died after giving birth to their daughter Bess. When Bess is 10, Bellman suddenly becomes obsessed with newspaper accounts of the discovery of dinosaur bones in Kentucky. He believes that the giant creatures might still exist, undiscovered in the unexplored territories of the west. So the fool sets out on his folly to find the beasts, leaving Bess with her unpleasant aunt and at the mercy of a pervy librarian and an even pervier neighbor. Bellman goes into a 2-year trek into the west and eventually purchases the services of a guide, a 17 year old Swanee boy named Old Woman From a Distance.This novella alternated between the story of Bellman, the inexperienced explorer, and that of Bess, who now has no one to protect her. The book had a fable-like quality, but I found the story very slight. It touched on atrocities against the Native Americans in such a trivial fashion. I'm curious about what attracted a British author to this subject, which she certainly didn't treat with any depth. I'd like to know what happens after the book ends to Old Woman From a Distance, who is the hero of this book, and to Bess, who is very resilient. However, I'm really not sure whether I would read more by this author. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    Cannot get past page 26. Bailing.It sounded wrong from the start. I’ve never heard language like this in documents from American history. At times it sounded like an attempt to construct something Amish-y, but then there would be a 21st century clunker like ‘help me out here.' Then even more wrong notes. As Bellman started west, I thought to myself ‘I spent much of my childhood camping throughout the Rocky Mountains, and this just doesn’t ring true.’ More trouble when Davies describes one of the Cannot get past page 26. Bailing.It sounded wrong from the start. I’ve never heard language like this in documents from American history. At times it sounded like an attempt to construct something Amish-y, but then there would be a 21st century clunker like ‘help me out here.' Then even more wrong notes. As Bellman started west, I thought to myself ‘I spent much of my childhood camping throughout the Rocky Mountains, and this just doesn’t ring true.’ More trouble when Davies describes one of the first nights, when he settles his stovepipe hat over his face to sleep. Really? Did she think how one might actually keep a stovepipe hat balanced on one’s face while asleep? And later, how could Bellman actually survive an entire winter outdoors on essentially no food? The timing for the newspaper story about the Kentucky Great Salt Lick fossil finds which jumpstarts the novel doesn’t jibe with the information about major discoveries in this area that I could find on the web, but I am willing to suppose that it was a story about older finds. Then the story returns to the 10 year old daughter that Bellman left with his sister in rural Pennsylvania. (The story is set in Lewistown PA, I'm guessing from comments about Jefferson and Lewis and Clark, between 1810 and 1820.) She asks her aunt to take her to the library to look at the big journals of the expedition so she could see their route.Really?A library in rural Pennsylvania in 1810? With a copy of the journals of Lewis and Clark? The website of the Mifflin County Library, which has the public library branch in Lewistown, says it started in 1842 as a paid lending library. That has to be well after the setting of this book, and this family couldn’t afford a lending library anyway. I finally looked up the author, to find she lives in northern England.I don’t believe that a writer can’t write about an event in a different country, but they have to do their research. To see an Irish get the historical American west so right you are there living and breathing the time, get a copy of Days Without End by Sebastian Barry.I get that her aim is to tell a fable, but what would it have cost to get some details right? I was so put off by the anachronisms and implausibilities that I couldn’t stick it.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    3.5, rounded up.I am not generally drawn to the 'Western' genre ('Days Without End' being the one notable exception I can think of, offhand), so was not inherently interested in Davies story initially. It's a quick read, and though the sparse prose has nothing fancy about it, it gets the job done. The structure seemed odd at times, with at least one major 'revelation' happening long before it's necessary, and then going back and filling in what happened leading up to that rather an anti-climax ( 3.5, rounded up.I am not generally drawn to the 'Western' genre ('Days Without End' being the one notable exception I can think of, offhand), so was not inherently interested in Davies story initially. It's a quick read, and though the sparse prose has nothing fancy about it, it gets the job done. The structure seemed odd at times, with at least one major 'revelation' happening long before it's necessary, and then going back and filling in what happened leading up to that rather an anti-climax (sorry to be obtuse, but didn't want to give any spoilers!). The abrupt ending somewhat redeems the slight deficiencies, however, and elevates it from the preceding bleakness.
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  • Chadwick
    January 1, 1970
    Lovely. A remarkable little gem. This is why I read fiction.
  • Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
    January 1, 1970
    Carys Davies is best known as a short fiction writer and that shines through in her careful and poised debut novel. West covers vast geographic and thematic ground in its brief 160 pages, telling a straightforward story in a clarified simple prose that skins over its underlying complexity and ambition. Her twin protagonists are widower Cy Bellman and his 10 year old daughter Bess. Cy has the soul of an adventurer in the body of a modest mule breeder in early 19th century Pennsylvania. Having alr Carys Davies is best known as a short fiction writer and that shines through in her careful and poised debut novel. West covers vast geographic and thematic ground in its brief 160 pages, telling a straightforward story in a clarified simple prose that skins over its underlying complexity and ambition. Her twin protagonists are widower Cy Bellman and his 10 year old daughter Bess. Cy has the soul of an adventurer in the body of a modest mule breeder in early 19th century Pennsylvania. Having already dislodged his family from their home in England to come to the New World, he finds himself increasingly restless and obsessed with thoughts of undiscovered wonders out west. A newspaper article about the bones of a monstrous creature discovered in Kentucky finally offer him a vision of otherness that he can't resist and, after buying himself a compass and a new hat, he declares his intention of riding into uncharted territory to track down a living specimen of this giant animal. He leaves 10 year old Bess behind in the care of her stern aunt Julia, promising to be back in a year or two with news of a magnificent discovery. With the naivety of a Don Quixote he sets out with a trunk full of trinkets to trade with native Americans and a vague notion of following the river. Back at home Bess patiently awaits news of her father with the devotion of an only child. As the years pass without word she becomes aware of the ridicule in which he is held and how different his understanding of the world is to their neighbours. They are focused on their day to day lives, the ordinary joys, griefs and desires, with little emotional or mental energy to spare for the possibility of mammoths on the American plains. What good would it do to find them? What purpose would they serve? Bess bears the burden of loneliness her father's idealism imposes on her, even as several local men begin to take notice of her vulnerable and unprotected status within the community. West opens in a generous light key, presenting Cy's quest as a bumbling harmless whim and setting a tone that is close to parable. The omniscient narrator is faintly humourous, almost indulgent, unwinding a narrative that feels decidedly low on peril. This changes so gradually, so incrementally, that you don't notice the danger and the tension until the story is already clenched like a fist. As the distance between Cy and Bess grows the cracks in their world, in the country that they call the United States, become increasingly apparent. The realities that are obscured by the polite, ordered veneer of Bess's home environment are eroded. Nasty truthes begin to show through: the genocide of native American peoples, the theft of their land and the systematic denial of their rights and culture; the chaotic lawlessness of settler society and the great unmapped wilderness. The ending comes as a gut punch of a shock that reminds you how thoroughly you can be deceived by appearances. Yet throughout Davies maintains a note of hope, so that the novel never loses the thread of wonder that moved Cy to leave home in the first place. It's a brilliant and consummate performance, sure to live on long past the handful of hours it will take you to read.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    A moving and imaginative story involving a colorful assembly of characters. A quick and enjoyable read. Would love to see a follow-up book delving into Bellman’s American Indian guide’s future.
  • Andy Weston
    January 1, 1970
    Those who come to Carys Davies’s debut novel seeking a Western in the mould of McCarthy, McMurty, Lansdale et al will be disappointed, as will be anyone who is seeking a historical story of the discovery of dinosaur bones in the mid-west of the US in the 1800s. That’s me also.What the novella does, is to mix fable and social reality and that certainly has an effect. It’s 1815, and recently widowed Cy Bellman, a recent settler on a Pennsylvania mule farm, is captivated by the report of bones bein Those who come to Carys Davies’s debut novel seeking a Western in the mould of McCarthy, McMurty, Lansdale et al will be disappointed, as will be anyone who is seeking a historical story of the discovery of dinosaur bones in the mid-west of the US in the 1800s. That’s me also.What the novella does, is to mix fable and social reality and that certainly has an effect. It’s 1815, and recently widowed Cy Bellman, a recent settler on a Pennsylvania mule farm, is captivated by the report of bones being found in Kentucky and takes himself off on his horse on a journey of discovery and adventure, leaving behind his 10 year old daughter in the care of his sister. His mission is aided by a young Shawnee Indian who he convinces to join him. In his absence his farm and family are threatened. The two tales are brought together with innovation and a sense of inevitability.
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  • Tras
    January 1, 1970
    Such a slim volume, but, as everyone knows, size most definitely is not everything. Every sentence is imbued with a charming simplicity. Each description is lean and measured. But do not be fooled: this book is brimming with passion, adventure, beauty, sorrow, and all things inbetween.With chapters that frequently comprise only a handful of pages, it will feel as if you are soaring through events. But this only serves to stoke the tension even further, as all narrative strands thunder along, con Such a slim volume, but, as everyone knows, size most definitely is not everything. Every sentence is imbued with a charming simplicity. Each description is lean and measured. But do not be fooled: this book is brimming with passion, adventure, beauty, sorrow, and all things inbetween.With chapters that frequently comprise only a handful of pages, it will feel as if you are soaring through events. But this only serves to stoke the tension even further, as all narrative strands thunder along, converging on their final destination.Plus, you know, the glimmer of dinosaurs...!
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