Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

We are not lovers rushing to embrace but there is a sense of terrifying union none the less, as if courage years to join with courage.
— Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry was the Costa Book Award Winner for 2016, and a very random book purchase from a few months ago for me. All I knew was that it was the story of two soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars and the Civil War, and whose lives were shaped in meeting a Native American girl. I probably was drawn to it not long after finishing News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 

But it did not read quite like News of the World, and it moved far more quickly across these years in 19th Century America, when the country was redefining itself as a Union that no longer promoted slavery, and during which it was trying to reach peace with the Native American tribes it had slaughtered. America certainly has a grim and bloody history. How do we forget?

I feel a woman more than I ever felt a man, though I were a fighting man most of my days.
— Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

What I loved most about this book were two things: The to-the-point yet somehow lyrical language, across war scenes and times of peace, and the straightforward approach to the main characters' sexuality. The two soldiers are lovers who met as children, and had dressed as women in a saloon to earn a few coins each night. The main character, Thomas or Thomasina depending on the time, was quite open in his love for John Cole, and his preference for women's clothing, though there was still the pull for concealment. The bond they have to the Native American girl, as hinted on the back cover of the book, is that of father and mother. 

All hail a Western read that takes this approach - how very refreshing. The truth of this in the confines of the time and with war always on the frontier made it an endearing, violent and tasteful read about love, war and comradery, however you dress it up.