- Verlag: Scribner (17. März 2003)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0743222954
- ISBN-13: 978-0743222952
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,7 x 3,3 x 20,6 cm
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 1.301.146 in Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Bücher)
Set during the year prior to the Easter Rising in 1916, the novel focuses on two 16-year-old boys, Doyler and Jim, and their families. The main characters are finely portrayed, and (as others have noted) they successfully arouse the reader's sympathies. But O'Neill adds a memorable supporting cast: Jim's aunt, a doddering, whiskered crone who always seems far more aware of what's going on than one is led to believe; Eva MacMurrough, a rich patron of Irish rebel causes who is flustered by her nephew's Wildean tendencies; and, for comic relief, Jim's father, a pretentious wannabe who always manages to be in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.
The most nuanced portrayal is that of the Anthony MacMurrough. Once may quibble over whether he is a pedophile: textual clues place his age in his early- to mid-20s; Doyler, his "rent boy," is 16. (If he were straight, such a relationship would be lawful and accepted in many states and most countries.) Legality aside, though, one cannot deny he is a sexual predator, and it's difficult not to detest his narcissism and self-rationalizing hedonism. But, as the novel progresses (and here I am necessarily vague in order not to give anything away), he gradually and subtly realizes that such encounters are not the road to happiness. He ultimately redeems himself, learning to find fulfillment by sharing his love rather than taking his way. But to claim that MacMurrough is a "mentor" to Doyler and Jim misses the point: he learns far more from the boys than they learn from him.
A lesser author would be foolish to tackle so much: Irish nationalism, sexual orientation, Catholic guilt, alcoholism, class identity, unwed pregnancy, unionism and socialism, the burden of tradition, Joyce and Wilde and Flann O'Brien. O'Neill's success is his enviable ability to weave together all these topics so seamlessly while fashioning a unique and lyrical voice and spinning a page-turning, heartbreaking yarn.
This is not a "genre" novel; it's outstanding writing by any standards one could think to apply. The story is tightly crafted, rich and complex, and the characters are unforgettable. And yes, as some reviewers discovered to their chagrin, a number of them display the moral ambiguity so characteristic of our species.
I gave this novel to my wife when I finished it, and recommended it to my (also straight) 22-year-old son. If you love fine writing and aren't obsessed with hating those whose sexual orientation puts them in the minority, you'll be deeply moved by this novel.
Mr. O'Neill's prose is fine indeed. One example: there is a wonderful scene when MacMurrough watches Jim leave him. "A terrible fear shook him, a fear for his boy and what the future might hold. Lest he should stumble and the crowd should find him. For we live as angels among the Sodomites. And every day the crowd finds some one of us out. . . There is no grand mistake. Aristotle wrote something that Augustine got wrong that Aquinas codified in law. . . What hates is madness. There's no reason, only madness. . . Who but a madman could revile this boy?" This is NOT the love that dare not speak its name.
Words used to describe this novel sound trite: "honor," "optimism," "friendship," "patriotism," "love." We can only hope Mr. O'Neill does not take 10 years to write another novel.
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