West by Carys Davies
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The most notable thing about West; it was short. The writing is good, the pacing is okay and our characters are interesting; yet the plot didn’t really feel like enough for me.
Set in the early days of Europeans settling in the West of North America, shortly after Lewis & Clark’s expedition, Carys Davies tells us a story of two people. A father and a daughter. One who goes off to find “gigantic creatures” whom he believes may be somewhere alive. And the other only 10 years old and left with an uncaring Aunt and little means to change her lot in life.
So the plot is around him travelling and her waiting. Except I never felt like we were going somewhere. Of course time was moving forward but it didn’t feel like to am ultimate goal. Maybe because we know (it’s really obvious) that these creatures he seeks are dinosaurs and cannot be found alive? Or perhaps because we know the girl is unlikely to fall into good fortune? Either way I just never felt like I was reading for any reason other than to finish the story. Which is not enough for me. I want to care about what happens next.
North American and the Settlers
I don’t think anyone, anywhere in the world needs to be reminded that (for many of us, including me) our ancestors were awful to the Native Americans. This is neither news, nor surprising. It was however very sad to read of the lose/lose situations the Natives were given by the European settlers. I felt a melancholy over this story that can’t not, and should not, go away.
While none of us can ever change the past, and likely no amount of anything will repair the harm done, it is a good reminder that they invaded what is now Canada and USA like a plague. Not because our ancestors didn’t care, but because they saw opportunity or because he were forced out of our own countries. This is no excuse. However, there is nothing any of us can do to change the past. However it is good to be reminded that the Natives were (mostly) kind and just trying to get back; same as everyone else.
I think the main theme that Davies is going for with West is to speak about hopelessness. As the reader we know that the inevitable overtaking of Native land happens and that there are no living dinosaurs to be discovered or found. And so the stories of our characters are tragic in their own way.
If you wish to know a little more about the terrain and conditions that Lewis and Clark May have encountered on their travels; or want to know how an abandoned 12-year-old girl manages then you may want to read this. Otherwise I’m not sure I see a lot of merit in West; even if it’s well written.
Truly the best thing going for West is that it’s short.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.