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A Long Long Way (Dunne Family)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,820 ratings  ·  387 reviews
Praised as a “master storyteller” (The Wall Street Journal) and hailed for his “flawless use of language” (Boston Herald), Irish author and playwright Sebastian Barry has created a powerful new novel about divided loyalties and the realities of war. In 1914, Willie Dunne, barely eighteen years old, leaves behind Dublin, his family, and the girl he plans to marry in order t ...more
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published February 3rd 2005 by Viking Adult (first published 2005)
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Certain mental images can be a little too vivid. When it comes to WW1, the permamuck of the trenches, the seared throats from deadly gases, and the pants-soiling horror of seeing a comrade’s detached body parts inches away are associations powerful enough to shut us down. There’s only so far we can extend our comprehension in the face of palpable terror. So how does a good author milk it a little more, getting us past the autonomic desensitization and back into the boots of shared experience? In ...more
Sep 11, 2012 Chrissie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Dem
On completion:

I thoroughly loved this book. I finished listening to it and was desperate for more. I re-listened to the last chapters. Then I thought, I simply cannot leave this book! I searched to see what other books Sebastian Barry has written. This is the first of a trilogy followed by first Annie Dunne and then On Canaan's Side. I read what these books were about. The central theme of these books diverge; they are not about WW1. And this is the topic that I want more of. So I checked out Th
This was short-listed for the 2005 Man Booker. I'm certain it will be among my top five reads of 2008.

It's the story of a young Irish soldier caught between the warfields of Belgium and the battle raging at home between the royalists and the nationalists. It's the most graphic and revealing treatment of WWI I've encountered- particularly of trench warfare and the horrors of mustard gas. It amazes me that anyone survived and sickens me how hundreds of thousands of young men were simply led to sla
Sep 08, 2012 Dem rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of History
Recommended to Dem by: Maria
A long long way written by Sebastian Barry was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and tells an amazing and extremely well written story.
This is the third novel I have read by Barry and have to say he is fast becoming one of my favourite writers.

This is the story of Willie Dunne who at the age of eighteen is too short to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a policeman in Dublin but who is old enough to volunteer and fight for England in World War 1. ,and so Willie leaves behind
Buddy read with Dawn & Chrissie.

Several years ago, during a weekend sojourn, my husband and I stayed at an inn. We were unexpectedly treated by an Irish group, who sang and played wonderful, captivating music. Part of this entertainment was a storyteller, who enthralled us with his lyrical presentation. Why do I mention this? I have barely started this book, yet I feel Sebastian Barry singing to me, with his soft, pleasant brogue. It shines through!I do not like to generalize, but are there
Well, this is rather yucky, but I'll be honest: this is the only book I have ever read where, upon conclusion, I was sick. I finished it on a break at work, rocked back and forth in tears, went back to work, promptly turned back around to the bathroom, quietly cried and threw up, went back to work very subdued, then headed home and stared out the window in utter exhaustion.

That might not seem an enthusiastic recommendation, but really, it should be. This book was pretty shattering, pretty beaut
A strong 4 and 1/2 stars

As with Colm Tóibín, but in a completely different manner, Sebastian Barry's strongest suit is the portrayal of the inner lives of his characters. And what we understand the most about his main character in this novel, Willie Dunne, is the love he feels for his family and, amidst all the chaos and horror of the Great War, the love he has for his comrades, no matter their differences. It was hard to read the one paragraph when he realizes he misses them all. It is the "lit
Well, I wished I could give this at least 2 stars, but I can't get myself to do so. I'm quite thoroughly exasperated and riled in too many ways to do so.

There will be spoilers; be warned if you open them you'll know the end.

Maybe there are writers who are capable of doing away with basic writing rules and coming up with a good book, but Barry certainly is not the one in my personal opinion. I was dead tired of his pretentious prose and ceaseless cliched or overly smart similes after the first h
Sometimes, I find the books I love the most are the most difficult to formulate a review for.

The book is about an Irish volunteer fighting in World War One, I thought it was interesting to read a story from an Irish perspective, quite enlightening in many ways - the turmoil at home as well as that in Europe and the prejudice that existed against Irish soldiers.

I just found so much to admire within the pages of A Long, Long Way, chief among them is the stunningly, jaw-droppingly evocative way tha
This was really successful in its description of life in the trenches. Barry conveys the futility of war just as clearly as Tolstoy did in War and Peace, but through the innocent thoughts of a bottom rank soldier instead of via the experiences of more privileged upper class individuals. Willie Dunne is credible and likeable and that allows the reader to stick with him even when the descriptions of the day to day conditions of life in the trenches become unbearable. There are some wonderful and m ...more
Dawn (& Ron)
Sep 19, 2012 Dawn (& Ron) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WWI, Irish and HF fans in general
Recommended to Dawn (& Ron) by: Chrissie
Buddy read with Chrissie and Barbara. Edit: Steelwhisper will be joining in with her thoughts too.

I don't have time for a full review yet but just wanted to get this out while it was dancing around in my head.

This is a book that sits on your heart and presses upon your mind. Each incident is linked. Small things can become big and big things can become small and circle back around again; Christy's medal, the tongue-less girl, Gretta, Father Buckley, Major Stokes, "Stille Nacht, Heilage Nacht" an
Eamon Doody
It is nearly 100 years since the start of the First World War I. In my country (Ireland) it is nearly 100 years since the defining moment in our War of Independance - the Easter 1916 Rising. Both of these wars took the lives of many Irishmen - and made widows of a generation of Irish women.

For much of the last 100 years Irish "patriotism" only allowed a full acknowledgement of those that died in "Irelands cause". The fallen Irish sons at Gallipoli, the Somme & Pasachendaele have too often be
Tragic and heavy novel focusing on an Irish private fighting in World War I. In general, I enjoyed the book, however I found the dialogue stunted and the characters distant. I always felt like I was in a fog while reading it.
Frank O'connor
Barry is one for the set piece and the convoluted sentence. He deploys the kind of sentences that everyone is told to avoid in writing school. His lines come laden with adjectives, distorted, oblique and sometimes shaded in purple. It's the kind of thing I would normally avoid, but Barry carries it off so well that it's easy to be seduced into the rhythm of the thing. It's clear that he's making his sentences do things, like notes on a register, each one written with a carefully deployed key tha ...more
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Sebastian Barry's novels are worth reading for his use of language alone – his vivid descriptions and use of metaphor are beautiful. At the same time, when needed his writing can be quite stark – most of the book takes place in the trenches and battlefields of WWI, and the horrors of war and death are described in almost matter-of-fact terms that feel very real.

The storyline also drew me in in its own right. The protagonist joins the British army jus
Margaret Madden

This novel tells the tale of young volunteer Private Willie Dunne, of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers in World War I. Like most young Irishmen of the time, Willie joins the British Army after hearing James Connolly recommend that to do so could only benefit Ireland's cause. Young, naive and impressionable, he sees this as a way of impressing his widowed father, himself a high ranking member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Willie was a slight boy and never reached
Excellent, well written, moving, informative.

Anyone who wants to understand Irish history should read this.

This is an important book as it is one of the first to explore the nature of the First World War in the trenches from an Irish Privates perspective.

It shows the turmoil the soldiers experienced, not only from the war, but also the shifting public and personal opinions due to the Easter Rising in Ireland. The meaning of fighting for 'King and country' for the Irish, changed throughout the wa
There are few books which are so compelling that you have to put them down just because you are overwhelmed by the enormity of the content and they have you reaching for tissues as they are so heartbreaking. This is definitely one of those. It combines descriptions of the horror of the trenches with brilliant prose which vividly expresses the fear felt by the soldiers, the scenes of a mustard gas attack early on are written in a manner that in one aspect has you mesmerised as he describes the be ...more
A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

When War came and Belgium was invaded by the Germans in 1914, the call came to defend and protect Home. The young men, cream of the crop, came by the thousands to populate the trenches.

p.14 "Willie Dunne was not the only one. Why, he read in the newspaper that men who spoke only Gallic came down to the lowlands of Scotland to enlist, men of the Aran Islands that spoke only their native Irish rowed over to Galway. Public schoolboys from Winchester and Marlboroug
Sebastian Barry is that rare writer who sets you in a scene and makes you feel, touch, and smell what his character does, all the while making you privy to his thoughts. The gas seared my lungs. I felt the squelching of a corpse I accidentally stepped on and even the warmth of unintended urine spreading through my trousers because of fear.

This is not an easy read, but it is one you can't put down--or at least I couldn't. The horrors of the trenches inWWI are so vividly portrayed that they are al
This may be the best war book I've ever read. I don't generally choose to read books about war, but this one was suggested to me by the professor of my Contemporary Irish Literature class as a book I should consider writing about for our required paper. I've read Sebastian Barry before (The Secret Scripture) and decided to give this one a try. The protagonist is a young Dublin boy who enlists in the British Army in WWI because he's too short to join the police force in Ireland, his preferred pro ...more
“This was not a scene of bravery, but it seemed to Willie in his fear and horror that there was a truth in it nonetheless. It was the thing before a joke was fashioned about it, before an anecdote was conjured up to make it safe, before a proper story in the newspaper, before some fellow with the wits would make a history of it. In the bleakness of its birth there was an unsullied truth, this tiny event that might make a corpse of him and all his proper dreams.”

Set during World War I, A Long L
I was captivated by this book and kept marveling at how such a grim subject could be written about in such a beautiful way. Willie Dunne, a young Irish boy barely 18 years old goes off to fight in WWI (fighting for the English) while back at home in his native Dublin the fight for independence is causing him to confront political issues he had never thought about before...especially as the devoted son of a loving father who has been a policeman, loyal to king and country, all his life. The book ...more
Dave Roffe
At the heart of this remarkable novel is the dilemma which increasingly faced many Irishmen during the latter stages of World War 1 – divided loyalties. Willie Dunne is a Catholic Ulsterman whose father, as a policeman, is a conservative loyalist. As war with Germany begins, Willie, being too short to follow his father’s footsteps into the police force, enlists with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to fight for the allied cause. Initially Willie sees the absolute moral correctness of the path he has c ...more
Willie Dunne is barely 18 when he enlists in the king’s army to drive the Huns from Belgium. A Dubliner and son of a policeman, Willie is too small ever to serve with his father on the force, which he longs to do. The fact that he is only five-feet six inches in height, however, doesn’t eliminate him from the service and therefore seems all the more reason to join up. His friend Jesse joins up because a moderate nationalist has told his followers that Irish service on behalf of king and country ...more
Kate Aaron
This is the worst piece of self-indulgent slurry I have ever had the misfortune to read. Seriously. I get what the author was trying to achieve - indeed, if any book has ever been written with the specific design of being "literary" then this is it. The rambling, repetitive narrative, the token Oirish colloquialisms, the death-by-a-thousand-similes... It all adds up to a clumsy, ham-fisted attempt to recreate traditional Irish folk narratives, to draw some correlation between the old oral storie ...more
Ubik 2.0
Sinfonia per un massacro

In genere, quando si parla di Guerra Mondiale, siamo soliti pensare alla seconda guerra, sia perché molto più vicina a noi e fortemente “coperta” dai mass media (documentari e fiction), sia soprattutto perché caratterizzata da alcuni spaventosi eventi in cui la ferocia umana si è espressa ai massimi livelli (L’olocausto, Hiroshima e Nagasaki, il bombardamento a tappeto di inermi città, popolate solo da vecchi, donne e bambini).

Questo romanzo invece ci ricorda come la P
Nick Stengel
Barry's writing is poetry, pure and simple. This is a story of an Irishman enlisted in World War I. During that time, Ireland was ruled by England, and many joined because home rule was promised. But loyalties are divided and nothing is simple. Barry writes in the form of oral storytellers, which is to say he breaks the fundamental rule of modern novel forms - show don't tell. But his prose is so vivid, so powerful, and so wrenching, that it becomes a strength of the work. I cannot say enough ab ...more
Praveen Palakkazhi
Barry has been on the queue for a while now. A perennial favorite with the Booker judges in the recent past (though he is yet to win the prize), this was his first shortlisted book and delves into the horrors of the men on the front during wartime.

A lot of literature and cinema has been devoted to probably the worst war (though it’s only in explicit numbers that war can be considered relative to each other – else it’s just war) of the last century, World War 2. So much so that sometimes the Firs
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It's about Irish soldiers in WW1, which is a great and complicated topic that was nicely explored. It was sensitively written with some lovely phrases. I was sad when characters died. But it just felt like a slog. Somehow, although I cared about the characters, I just didn't feel some necessary connection with them.

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R.L. Stine on NPR 12 52 Nov 30, 2014 10:42AM  
Goodreads Ireland: November-January Quarterly Read Nominations: A Long Long Way 15 18 Dec 15, 2011 04:37PM  
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Sebastian Barry is an Irish playwright, novelist and poet. He is noted for his dense literary writing style and is considered one of Ireland's finest writers

Barry's literary career began in poetry before he began writing plays and novels. In recent years his fiction writing has surpassed his work in the theatre in terms of success, having once been considered a playwright who wrote occasional nove
More about Sebastian Barry...

Other Books in the Series

Dunne Family (4 books)
  • The Steward of Christendom (Dunne Family #1)
  • Annie Dunne (Dunne Family #2)
  • On Canaan's Side
The Secret Scripture On Canaan's Side The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty Annie Dunne (Dunne Family #2) The Temporary Gentleman

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“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 in the book of life, certainly. Those millions of mothers and their million gallons of mother’s 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 millstones of a coming war.” 17 likes
“It had been a war of kingly poisons, in the air, in the memory, in the blood.” 2 likes
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