1870s Paris, Tennessee, a young Lakota girl Ojinjintka, lately known as Winona Cole, travels a delicate path in post-Civil War America. Another 5* book from Sebastian Barry, A Thousand Moons is sequel to Days Without End, though both books can be read independently. This is a dangerous time when the rule of law is often non-existent and hatred is on every street. Winona says, ‘It was a town of many eyes watching you anyhow, an uneasy place.’ Barry tells this heart-rending story in eloquent prose that makes the pages turn.
Winona is the adopted daughter of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, whose wartime story is told in Days Without End. Now, peace has come and Thomas and John raise their daughter to be educated and respectful. This in itself causes problems. ‘It is bad enough being an Indian without talking like a raven,’ says Winona. ‘The white folks in Paris were not all good speakers themselves.’
A story of one young woman’s journey through life’s racism, prejudice and latent violence, this is also a story of love. The love, for its time, of an unusual family; an Indian cared for when her family is killed when she is six years old. Winona finds a new home with Cole and McNulty, living with fellow Civil War soldier Lige Magan on his farm, with two black ex-slaves, cook Rosalee Bouguereau and her farm labourer brother Tennyson. Winona finds a mentor in Lawyer Briscoe, for whom she clerks. What happens next is the catalyst for the story; an event she struggles to understand, to hide. This is a coming-of-age story in which Winona must reconcile her Lakota birth with her childhood and young adulthood in a changing racial world, and also find herself as a woman.
A beautifully written book.
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