Sebastian Barry || The Temporary Gentleman

In the Second World War temporary gentleman were those men who climbed unto bombs and tried to disengage them. Jack McNulty, the main character is one of those men. He is also or rather foremost temporary in another sense. Jack is married to Mai, during his marriage he is often abroad (first war, next work) and he chooses not to notice that Mai has started drinking seriously. He also chooses not to see that she suffers from a major depression after the birth of their first child, that she kind of abuses their second, unwanted child and that Mai is simply incapable of raising their children. Though Jack absolutely adores Mai, he does not want to act on her problems. When at a certain point she has gone through rehab his own heavy drinking sets her of again. At the start of the novel Jack finds himself in Ghana. The country has just become independent and Jack is just hanging on. It is quite obvious that he does not want to return to Ireland; Mai is dead and Jack is estranged from his daughters. I am not quite sure why Barry chose to situate his novel in Ghana. Its independence is no major influence in the novel; quite frank, Jack might just have well have been on the Scilly Islands or in London or in any place where he would find the time to start writing about his life with Mai. That is the major line of the novel. In writing Jack comes to terms with the way he lived and the effect this had on Mai. He finally accepts that her death is for a large part due to his negligence of his wife. Other reviews spoke of Barry’s poetic language. I can see why they were enthusiastic of his writing style, personally I felt that Barry should have restricted himself more. His long sentences very often contain clauses that do not add to the content. As a result they are overwrought and contrived, which is a pity because in those sentences in which Barry did restrict himself he absolutely wrote poetically. Barry appeared to be too much in love with his own words, with his own capacity to write. By crossing out small clauses the effect would have been magical and truly poetic.

temporary gentleman


About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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2 Responses to Sebastian Barry || The Temporary Gentleman

  1. BookerTalk says:

    I used to read Sebastian Barry a lot in the past but lost touch with him. Do you think he set it in Ghana as a way of trying to interest someone in film rights by giving them settings that would show well on the large screen?

  2. I did not look at it in that way, it is a possibility of course. I’m not quite sure Ghana is that interesting for the big screen though. I know for certain the Scilly Islands would make for a stunning scenery.

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