In Days without End, the fourth in a loose series of novels chronicling the McNulty dynasty, Sebastian Barry travels back in time and across the Atlantic to a troubled 19th-century America. The narrator, Thomas McNulty, fled famine-stricken Sligo aged thirteen, creeping alone onto a ship when his father’s money ran out in the belief that any other life must be better. Now, living in Tennessee many years later, he looks back over his tempestuous life.
Soon after his arrival in the US he meets John Cole, a boy similarly adrift. The two initially find work in a bar, acting as stand-in dancing girls in a womanless town, each wearing a dress and waltzing with drunken, sentimental miners (who, in spite of their coarseness,