The Temporary Gentleman

858 The Temporary Gentleman

In search of a fiction fix at the public library, and having had a mental bookmark for Sebastian Barry for some time, I noticed the quotation from John Banville on the cover of this new novel and it was irresistible. John Banville, in my humble opinion one of our finest novelists, labelling Sebastian Barry as “one of our finest novelists” is an encomium with which I now have great pleasure in agreeing. A strong story, recounted in melodious Irish idiom and accent, of the utmost clarity, exploring degrees of familial connections and reflecting upon a lifetime’s emotional needs, cutting between the grey damp Irish past and the blue dry present day Accra, delineating scene and mood with exact and penetrating description, using long, long, sentences (just as I am affecting to emulate here) to build up perfectly controlled drama, the best example being an extraordinary sentence of more than two pages in length, describing a catastrophic event, which seems to have the resolution of a slow motion film. It is unusual in modern fiction to come across a flawed woman and the occasion this provides for male insightfulness. Like Henning Mankell’s narrator in The Depths, Sebastian Barry’s narrator is an engineer despperate to make some sense out of the chaos of emotion. A great read.

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