Friday 15 January 2021


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A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry    {Reviewed by STELLA}
“I am Winona. In the early times I was Ojinjintka.” From the opening lines of Sebastian Barry’s A Thousand Moons you are immersed in the world of a young Lakota woman and you will not want to leave. Her voice will command your attention and draw you to 1870 post-Civil War America, with its tension, danger and promise. Although a sequel to Days Without End, it stands alone while still encompassing the relationship between Winona and her adoptive parents, Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and the histories that haunt them and the hopes that drive them forward. Now working on a farm in Paris, Tennessee, the family are shaping a home for themselves. The land is new and raw, as are the people, adjusting to the new order. Winona, John Cole and the Bouguereau brother and sister (all working and living on Lige Magan’s farm) watch their backs and keep to themselves—it still doesn’t pay to be Indian or Black in this 'New World'. When Winona is attacked and Tennyson Bouguereau beaten, the Lakota girl decides to take matters into her own hands. She swaps her dress for britches and takes to the road with a knife and a gun to confront anyone that might have information. Her memory of the violence perpetrated on her is hazy, and what she will actually do unsure. Her revenge isn’t quite what she expects, and setting upon a camp of renegades she encounters a young woman much like her—a Chickasaw orphan, Peg, taken in by the rakish outlaw Aurelius Littlefair. A tender friendship, soon love, blossoms between the two young women. Yet the attack on Winona is still unpunished, and despite the efforts of John and Thomas and the lawyer Briscoe, nothing is resolved. “It wasn’t a crime to kill an Indian because an Indian wasn’t anything in particular.” And Winona knows the law isn’t for her. As her own past and the murder of her family by those that surround her haunts her and as tensions in the township increase—there are outlaws, militias, crooked lawmen and opportunists ready to cause mayhem—Winona can’t rest easy until she knows the truth. A young man, Jas Jonski, who was sweet on Winona, is the main suspect. When he is murdered, Winona finds herself under fire. Sebastian Barry writes with lyricism and conviction. A Thousand Moons is compelling and beautiful in both its violence and desire—in the determination of a young woman to make her own future and not the one enforced upon her.   

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