This book won the British 2007 Booker prize and having won an award, we can vouch for the dreamy quality of the writing even if we can’t attest to the degree of realism to which the overly large Irish family is depicted.
From an abuse survival point of view this book, unlike the Kite Runner, fails miserably, box-ticking the get-no-help-drink-too-much-commit-suicide view of a male abuse victim as something inevitable and inescapable. So we re-read the book a second time to get a better handle on a story which does more flashing back and forward than the TV shows Lost and Flashforward combined and on a second read it’s still self-indulgent on the part of the fictional narrator making it hard to sympathise with the loss when the character’s mother is only fleshed out in the past as a younger woman.
Reading this novel is torture, it’s bleak depressing rubbish (as opposed to trying to convey grief) and the attempt to engender the Life Goes On motif by the end with the last in an endless line of family members we don’t get time to care about, doesn’t work. If you’re Irish and feel like being treated to an unending litany of clichés it might be worth getting this book out of the library but only if you have a lot of time to kill because you need to read over half of it before the flashbacks get into the mid 20th century and stay there.
It’s the kind of book that shows that if you know nothing about child sexual abuse in general then not even bothering to depict the specific character, copping out by killing them off and referring to them as the departed ghost, is something writers shouldn’t bother with. Even the disputed Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra with the same ethnicity albeit in a different country, has a more realistic tone to a character suffering the same outcome – so read the latter novel instead and if you own it, read it again.