The Book Club
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Author:  Sgt Pepper [ Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Book Club

Sgt Pepper wrote:

He was born in the dying days.
It was the withering end of 1896. He was called William after the long-dead Orange King, because his father took an interest in such distant matters. On top of that, an old great-uncle, William Cullen, was yet living in Wicklow, across the mountains as they used to say, where his father himself had been reared.
The winter sleet bit into the Dublin cab-men, where they gathered in their mucky gabardines by the Round Room in Great Britain Street. The stony face of the old building remained indifferent, with its strange decoration of ox-skulls and draperies.
The new babies screeched inside the thick grey walls of the Rotunda Hospital. Blood gathered on the nurses' white laps like the aprons of butchers.
He was a little baby and would be always a little boy. He was like the thin upper arm of a beggar with a few meagre bones shot through him, provisional and bare.
When he broke from his mother he made a mewling sound like a wounded cat, over and over.
That was the night of a storm that would not be a famous storm. But, for all that, it rattled the last leaves out of the regal oaks in the old pleasure gardens behind the hospital, and it drove the wet harvest along the gutters and into the gaping drains and down into the unknown avenues of the great sewers. The blood of births was sluiced down there too, and all the many liquids of humanity, but the salt sea at Ringsend took everything equally.
His mother took him to her breast with the exhausted will that makes heroes of most mothers. The fathers stood well away, taking a beer in the Ship Hotel. The century was old and weak, but the men spoke of horses and taxes. A baby knows nothing, and Willie knew nothing, but he was like a scrap of a song nonetheless, a point of light in the sleety darkness, a beginning.

And all those boys of Europe born in those times, and thereabouts those times, Russian, French, Belgian, Serbian, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Italian, Prussian, German, Austrian, Turkish – and Canadian, Australian, American, Zulu, Gurkha, Cossack, and all the rest – their fate was written in a ferocious chapter of the book of life, certainly. Those millions of mothers and their million gallons of mothers' milk, millions of instances of small-talk and baby-talk, beatings and kisses, ganseys and shoes, piled up in history in great ruined heaps, with a loud and broken music, human stories told for nothing, for ashes, for death's amusement, flung on the mighty scrapheap of souls, all those million boys in all their humours to be milled by the mill-stones of a coming war.

So read the opening lines of Sebastian Barry's masterpiece, first published in 2005 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Although losing out that year to another astonishing work - THE SEA by fellow Irishman John Banville, A LONG LONG WAY is an unforgettable experience charting heartbreaking division, unspeakable loss and the ultimate glory of artistic and imaginative redemption against the horrific backdrop of one of the bloodiest conflicts brought to the planet by man.
Young Willie Dunne marches into war with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, an Irishman fighting for the allied cause, just as trouble festers in his own homeland, culminating in the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion and the Irish Proclamation of Independence from Britain.
Loyalties tested all round, from loved ones to patriotism to moral and physical courage, where not only the soul destroying trenches of World War 1 Europe hold deathly sway, but the entrenchment of spirit and thought itself. Mass carnage and collective sacrifice across Europe for a war fought to protect small nations running parallel to political upheaval, war and uprising in an Ireland seeking self determination itself.
At times almost unbearably savage, at times tearfully tender. Screaming and unflinching, yet elegant and beautiful.. A LONG LONG WAY is a work of intense humanity. Resonant and authentic.

'A stunning achievement.'

'A LONG LONG WAY is soaked in blood, semen, excrement and filth. Yet it still manages to retain an elegiac, trance-like elegance..
Through this richly textured language, Barry creates for Willie Dunne a no-man's land unlike any other. It stretches, not just between the British and German lines, but between the man he becomes at war and everything he knows and loves. He loses his country, the girl he loves, and even his father, who is horrified by Willie's ambivalent sympathy for the executed Dublin rebels. With no world in which to live, he becomes a kind of ghost even before he is dead. It is Barry's heartbreaking achievement not to exorcise that ghost, but to allow it to haunt us with the unspeakable sorrow of an irreparable loss.'

'One of the great books about the First World War, which escapes and transcends any merely Irish dimension or location. The Boston Globe called A LONG LONG WAY a masterpiece. It is a judgement that is hard to fault.'

'What happened to the Irishmen fighting for the King in France when their countrymen in Dublin rose up against the British in 1916? That's the intriguing question at the heart of this understated, beautifully written story...
Strong stuff, as powerful in it's own way as the trench memoirs of Sassoon and Graves.'

'Barry's excellent novel sets the trauma of trench warfare against a background of confused allegiance, yet above all it is a cry of grief for the huge desolation of war itself.'

'Because his prose is exquisite and because his mind is relentless in lifting every last clod of thought and exploring beneath it, his mission works. Works like a spell... A LONG LONG WAY is an infinitely apt title for this evocative, searching, nudging, niggling novel.'

'In darkly beautiful, inventive and evocative prose Barry tells the filthy truths of war.'

'The story grips, shocks and saddens; but most importantly refuses to be forgotten.'

'The most remarkable shared imaginative universe in Irish writing belongs to the poet, playwright and novelist Sebastian Barry who, like an archaeologist, has slowly and deftly delved back through his myriad ancestors to let them breathe again... A LONG LONG WAY is a major novel... perhaps his greatest work.'


Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955.


Author:  simplysuze [ Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Book Club

I'm reading the latest offering from Lee Child.

Ok, not highbrow or noteworthy ...
A guilty pleasure, perhaps?

Author:  simplysuze [ Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Book Club

Stephen King: Finders Keepers.
James Patterson: The Big Bad Wolf.
Minette Walters: The Breaker.
David Baldacci: Hell's Corner.
Karin Slaughter: Fallen.
Michael Connelly: The Black Ice.

Mood dependent suggests which one ends upon my lap from the pile stacked to my side.
(Except for the Stephen King, which is in e-form and on my iPad).

I think today is very much a reading kinda day.
Maybe a little music ...

Author:  tiggy [ Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Book Club

Ian Buxton’s Whiskies Galore.

A tour of Scotland’s Island distilleries.

From Arran to the Orkneys, the finest drams explored and imbibed..

.. with a glass of Bruichladdich, of course :biggrin:

Author:  tiggy [ Sat Jul 21, 2018 5:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Book Club

The Fighting Temeraire.

The 98 gun ship-of-the-line, the leviathan that followed Nelson’s Victory through the French and Spanish lines at Trafalgar, relieving the beleaguered flagship, before lashing two French warships along her strakes, fighting until her sides ran “wet with the long runlets of English blood”. Those pale masts that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their ensigns through the thunder ‘til sail and ensign dropped.

Singled out by Vice-Admiral Collingwood, after the battle, she was eventually encapsulated via the media of paint and canvas, the nation’s favourite painting by a long shot. Joseph Mallord William Turner’s finest piece (in my most humble opinion)...

Never more, shall sunset lay golden robe on her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that part her gliding.

Q“It always makes me feel a little melancholy. Grand old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?”

James Bond: A bloody big ship.

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