This has been on my reading list for yonks. I can’t remember where I read the rave reviews – one of the Guardian’s “Books of the Year” or “Summer/Winter Reading Recommendations” possibly.
I found it hard going. A great story – two young Irish men, boys really when they arrive as immigrants fleeing famine. Travelling West, and still pre-teen, they meet and find work as saloon bar entertainers. In time they become soldiers, first in the Indian Wars and later in the Civil War.
So why hard going? The oral history style. Once I’d got used to it, and was caught up in the stories, I was OK. But it didn’t work as a “one chapter before bed” type of read.
A good read, in which we follow two accounts of the childhood and early womanhood of Roseanne Clear. Roseanne’s own account, of growing up and falling in love in a small coastal community in the northwest of the island of Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century, is beautifully told.
Interspersed and interleaved we have her psychiatrist, Dr Grene,’s narrative, which draws upon the written records of Roscommon Mental Hospital and the institutional system in which Roseanne has spent most of her adult life. Using both accounts, Sebastian Barry illustrates Irish social, religious and political attitudes and history of the past 100 years.
The only downside? The Eastenders-eque denouement.