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Carys Davies

  • awardWinner, Aberystwyth University Fiction Book of the Year, United Kingdom, 2019
  • awardRunnerup, McKitterick Prize, United Kingdom, 2019
  • awardShortlisted, Rathbones Folio Prize, United Kingdom, 2019
  • West is an exquisite first novel set on the American frontier.

    Addled by grief after the death of his wife, and prompted by reports of colossal animal bones found in Kentucky, John Cyrus Bellman sets off on his quest, leaving behind his only daughter, Bess, to be cared for by her aunt.

    While Bellman ventures farther into the wilderness, forging an uneasy fellowship with his guide, a Native American boy, Bess traces her father’s path on maps at the local library and keeps out of the way of their peculiar neighbour Elmer Jackson.

    Bold and lyrical, West is a brief epic, a micro masterpiece about love, reckless determination and yearning for the unknown.

    Watch a trailer for West on Twitter
    Read an essay by Carys Davies on Powell’s Books blog, about writing West. 


    Evening Standard
    Irish Times
    Kirkus (STARRED Review)
    The Lifted Brow
    Page & Blackmore, Jun 18
    Shelf Awareness 
    Star Tribune 
    Stuff NZ, Jul 18
    Sydney Morning Herald 
    Times ($)

    Carys Davies
    About the Author

    Carys Davies’ debut novel, West, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, runner-up for the Society of Authors’ McKitterick Prize and winner of the Wales Book of the Year for Fiction. She is also the author of two collections of short stories, Some New Ambush and The Redemption of Galen Pike (published in Australia as the single collection...

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    Text publication date:
    30 April 2018
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    Praise for Carys Davies

    ‘Carys Davies deserves every accolade she has received.’


    ‘Davies’ slim, complex, and achingly beautiful first novel is a sculpture of daring shifts and provocative symmetries welded together by lyrical, fast-paced prose…A masterful first novel—the sort of book that warms even as it devastates, that forces serious reflection and yet charms.’

    West has all the stark power and immediacy of a folk-tale or a legend. It is also structured with great artistry, a beguiling sense of form and pace, and a depth in the way the characters are created, making clear that Carys Davies is a writer of immense talent.’

    ‘Menace and mordant wit are the blood that runs through these veins, but there’s a pulse of wonder in Carys Davies’ West. She sees the world and its inhabitants both as we hope they are and as we fear that they might be. An audacious and enigmatic debut of thrilling dimensions, and a reminder of fiction’s possibilities.‘

    ‘A story of determination, betrayal, folly, and reckless hope written in the grand tradition of the pioneers. You enter the familiar American frontier and shortly are convinced, with Davies’ hero, that the mammoths of the Pleistocene still shyly roam the Plains. The seams between imagination and history in this extraordinary story are invisible. I believed every word.‘

    West is a journey and a wonder. A man leaves what he loves and goes west in search of the amazing. A story concerned with value and language, love and absence, life and death. A debut of real distinction.’

    ‘To read Carys Davies’ West is to encounter a myth, or a potent dream—a narrative at once new and timeless. Exquisite, continent, utterly vivid, this short novel will live on in your imagination long after you read the last page.’

    West proves what in-the-know lovers of her short stories have already been trumpeting: Carys Davies is a deft, audacious visionary, a master of the form. In West, she breaks open our fascination with fated journeys and the irrepressible draw of the unknown, imbuing the American landscape with her own rare magic, twisting the heart as few others can, brilliantly navigating the tension between narrative minimalism and imaginative opulence.’

    West’s strength lies in belief, and wonder, and the simple pure clarity of that in an incomprehensible world.’

    ‘Menace and mordant wit are the blood that runs through these veins, but there’s a pulse of wonder in Carys Davies’ West. She sees the world and its inhabitants both as we hope they are and as we fear they might be. An audacious and enigmatic debut of thrilling dimensions, and a reminder of fiction’s possibilities.’

    ‘Brief and brilliant…[I]t is that rare thing, an historical novel that gives no hint of the research on which it is constructed but seems to have arisen effortlessly out of a time and a place.’

    ‘Bold and lyrical…West is an exquisite debut that’s short in length but steeped in the tall tales of American myth.’

    ‘One of the most haunting and beautifully crafted novels I have read in a long time…Davies has produced something quite wonderful in West. This is a gently seductive book, one that entrances right to its cleverly conceived end.’

    ‘This small book is a visionary and beautiful fable of discovery and dreaming, along with some harsh truths about the reality of American history and its dreamers’ lives…the writing is astonishing, right to the heart-stopping end.’

    ‘Not a word is wasted; the canvas is as wide as [Davies’] brush is fine…She holds comedy and tragedy in equal, delicate balance…There are many worlds to explore within this deceptively short book, which gallops towards its conclusion with a mythic inevitability. You won’t be able to turn back.’

    ‘Slender, stark and utterly mesmerising…The language, lyrical yet pared down, conveys complicated feelings of grief, guilt, sadness and a strange kind of wonder.’

    ‘This exquisite historical novel of life on the American frontier may be only 150 pages long but boy, does it pack a punch…Tense, captivating and whittled to perfection.’

    ‘A haunting, beautifully weighted tale, so skilfully and sparely told that it is hard to believe Davies hasn’t published anything at length before.’

    ‘Beautifully sad…Davies’ lapidary prose is a marvel—she creates worlds in a few deft pen strokes.’

    ‘Davies’ brilliant gem of a novel glints with sadness and a sombre kind of wonder.’

    ‘There’s something of Don Quixote about Bellman…[West’s] characters never feel less than fully human, the world they inhabit never less than fully imagined, and for its final third it’s a real page-turner, too. A magnificent achievement.’

    ‘Beautifully written…West has the wisdom and lyrical prose of a folk tale whose power grips the reader from the beginning and demands a single-session read…Steinbeck is an obvious comparison.’

    ‘A lithe yet lyrical meditation on obsession, violence and the yoke of family…Davies conjures the frontier ethos and landscape in spare yet elegant prose. Her imagery and cadences glide beautifully into place…From a distance, West looks like a slim fable; but a closer view reveals a peculiarly American self-delusion, opening up like a vast prairie. Davies is an audaciously talented writer to watch.’

    ‘A debut novel to savour…Small but perfectly formed.’

    ‘This quick, compelling read is a novel about family commitments, small-town agitations and the irresistible, fanatic pull of the unknown.’

    ‘[A] small jewel of a debut novel…A hauntingly beautiful book.’

    West is both beautifully crafted and entrances to its cleverly conceived end.’

    ‘Miraculous…So crisply and concisely written, and so warm and human in its economy, that it shames the behemoths sitting beside it on the nation’s bookshop shelves. It’s a book you can read in a day and that will resonate all year long in your head.’

    ‘This novel captured my attention in a way no other story has for years…West is a brief story with not a word wasted…[It] is like being drawn into an intricately detailed Breughel painting.’

    ‘The beautiful, rapid way Davies writes is simple and grounded, everything sits where it should.’

    ‘Immensely engaging and brilliantly written, this short debut novel is a miniature masterpiece.’

    ‘I believe that Davies has achieved something striking in this small volume: as Frederick Jackson Turner viewed American history through the lens of the frontier, she has examined the power — and perhaps failure — of storytelling through the lens of the American West.’

    ‘It really is a terrific novel…This book…knocked us out like a roundhouse punch to the muzzle.’

    ‘An exquisite, haunting tale of an unlikely hero in 19th-century America.’


    Other editions ofWest
    • West
      ISBN: 9781925626575
      30 April 2018
      Buy ebook