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Readers Unite

by Eddie Rayner

Have a read through our editor’s latest choice book and his take on it.

‘West’ by Carys Davies
Deeply engaging and wonderfully written, Carys Davies’ short debut novel, West, is a tiny masterpiece. The story follows a European settler in early 19th-century America who is searching for the dinosaurs he is convinced may still be wandering around in the uncharted territories of the west. A mythical tale that is a recasting of the Orpheus fable, with a large dollop of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, mixed in; West tackles gargantuan themes, such as extinction, colonialism, heartache, love, and isolation – with a profound sense of humour and a gentle touch.

Scenes twinkle with wry comedy, hazards loom, and ordeals are confronted in the midst of spectacular landscapes. It is a book that captivates from page one, with the reader immediately drawn into the world of West’s hero, Cy. In addition to the story itself, it is also possible to learn a good deal about life in the United States during those times; its day-to-day challenges, the slow pace of life – so completely different from today – and the numerous difficulties associated with travelling long distances.

West is a beautifully written book from one of the leading storytellers of our time, for although this is Carys Davies’ first published novel, her two collections of short stories, Some New Ambush and The Redemption of Galen Pike, have won the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the 2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize respectively. She is also the recipient of the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Prize, the Society of Authors’ Olive Cook Short Story Award, and a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library.

The only puzzle with this book is how on earth she manages to create such an enduring story in just 150 pages – but she does!

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