Book Review: West by Carys Davies

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Title: West

Author: Carys Davies

Genre: Literary Fiction/Western

Number of Pages: 160

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes



Usually I’m not all that into westerns, but this book was unusual enough that I almost didn’t notice that it fit into one of the few genres usually tend to avoid. The heroine of this slim novel, Bess, is just a little girl whose mother had died when her foolhardy daddy leaves her in the care of her sour-tempered aunt to go on a long journey in search of monstrous bones that he is sure will prove the existence of colossal animals that remain as yet undiscovered by mankind. Cy wants to be rich and famous and wants to be somebody who is both respected and remembered by future generations, but even more he wants to do something big that might help get the loss of his wife out of his head.


While some might call this a unconventional and poorly thought out midlife crisis, most of the people in the community where he abandons Bess just call him straight-out crazy. Nevertheless, Bess loves him unconditionally and hates it when she hears people gossiping about him. At first she believes wholeheartedly her dad will come back, but as she starts to get older she begins to lose hope that they will be reunited.


West is by all intents and purposes a very short book, but the setting and story feel rich and all-encompassing in a way that makes feel ‘bigger’ than some novels that are twice it’s length. It really sucks you into the time period with it beautiful yet not flowery writing, and even though pretty much everything shown in it is totally out of my realm of personal experience, it made it easy for me to visualize what was going on and made me feel like I was a part of it.


The character development was not as good as it could have been, and I found it a little odd that Bess was the least developed out of the central characters even though she was arguably the heart of the whole thing. Other than her obvious love and loyalty for her father, I didn’t get to learn much of anything about her. From the little I got to know about her I felt predisposed to like her, but the author could have done so much more with her character.


While I definitely thought Bess’ father Cy was more well-developed in that it was easier to get into his head, my favorite character hands-down was the teenage Indian boy who served as Cy’s guide on his doomed quest, Old Woman at a Distance (Old Woman at a Distance was badly bow-legged, and thus became the victim of an unflattering nickname by his fellow tribesman.)


I wonder what it would have been like if the book had focused on his experiences rather than those of Cy and Bess’. I found that even though the rest of this book was really well-written, the ending disappointed me a little bit. I mean, it was okay, but it also felt abrupt and left several things unresolved. Overall I thought West was a pretty great read, and as soon I finished it I wanted more from this author.

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