By Sebastian Barry
Viking, $26.95, 310 pages
The Temporary Gentleman is an eloquent sequel to Sebastian Barry’s third novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. Set in the mid-1900s, The Temporary Gentleman tells the story of the tempestuous love affair between Irishman Jack McNulty and the woman who stole his heart, Mai Kirwan. As the novel unfolds, Jack remembers his life – his battle with alcoholism, his struggle to keep his family stable and insight into the average Irishman’s state of mind during WWII. The novel lacks tension, however, and uses unfamiliar language and punctuation.
“When I washed up on the Gold Coast during the Togo plebiscite, it wasn’t that I lacked a moral view of things, I lacked a view, like a hotel-room window facing a high, blank wall.”
Though the story may not be what the modern fiction aficionados look forward to, The Temporary Gentleman definitely delivers for those who love emotional prose. As this highly acclaimed author relishes the romance and savors the peculiar, readers will find the novel an unusual and delightful diversion from run-of-the-mill fiction.
Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth