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The First Verse
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The First Verse

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  218 ratings  ·  29 reviews

This memorable debut novel explores Dublin's every corner, including a first-of-its-kind portrayal of its thriving gay nightlife, through the eyes of a young man seduced by a secret society's ancient reading rituals, based on the sortes virgilianae. In brilliant prose, author Barry McCrea gives readers a psychologically gripping tale set within the intertwining worlds of l
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Paperback, 355 pages
Published April 28th 2005 by Perseus Publishing (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 401)
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Lanea
This is a pretty impressive first novel. It follows Niall, a young student from Sandycove, Dublin as he enters university at Trinity College Dublin to study French and English as a Beckett scholar. So, of course, I was going to read this no matter what. The book traces through one of my favorite cities, in the neighborhoods I used to haunt as a student, and the main character reminds me so much of one of my long-lost dear high school friends that reading the book was almost like a reunion. And t ...more
Blake Fraina

Niall Lenihan is entering his first year at Trinity Dublin, as one of two Beckett Scholars. He's somewhat young for his age - bookish and inexperienced; not yet out of the closet to anyone and still nursing an unrequited crush on Patrick, a popular, athletic, and decidedly straight, school chum. As Niall is settling into his rooms at university, a mysterious young man calls him by name from the courtyard below his window and serenades him with the first verse of a traditional song, "Oranges and
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Benjamin
Niall Leniham is a bright young student from a better suburb south of Dublin who struggles with his gay inclinations. He is infatuated with Ian, a popular school boy, whom he goes out of his way to befriend, but it seems he is never fully accepted into Ian’s circle. When he wins a prestigious scholarship to Trinity College Dublin he soon falls in with a new group of friends, and also discovers the lively gay scene. His first encounter though is with the enigmatic Pablo Virgomare, who becomes an ...more
Nick Sweeney
Niall is a young Dublin student who has got a place on a scholarship to the prestigious Trinity College. He does the usual college things; he makes new friends, goes drinking, goes to parties, and even does a little bit of studying.

He is drawn out of college life firstly by his introduction into Dublin's gay scene. He has always been gay, as far as he knows, and has suffered unrequited love for a straight friend. The rough and ready Dublin scene heralds the awakening of him as a sexual being, an
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Chris
Dublin youth Niall Lenihan is a college freshman, closeted and adjusting to the freedom of being away from home for the first time. After a series of mysterious incidents, Niall becomes intrigued with graduate student, Sarah (and attracted to her sidekick, John), after she introduces him to a fortune-telling method derived from reading the first verse of a randomly chosen page in a book. Niall's fascination turns into a dangerous obsession, where every decision he makes is controlled by these se ...more
Jillian
An intricately interesting read. I'm not really sure what I expected when I picked up this title, but it's been a few hours since I finished it and I'm still trying to digest it. The wandering adventures of Niall as he navigates of the book-related cult he finds himself sucked in to at times sucked me in greatly. At others, I sat staring at the page wondering where this was going, and why McCrea had written yet another scene in a pub. Overall however, a very gripping read and one I would recomme ...more
K8e
I really enjoyed reading the novel and then it started to fizzle out on me towards the end. It is about Niall, a college student from Dublin, who finds himself wrapped up in a book cult. He tries to enter a secret society almost with Sarah & John. He first saw the "game" played at a party and quickly became intrigued with Sarah & John's abilities. They ask questions out loud, and find the answers in random books, reading the random "first verse" that they land on... He alienates himself ...more
Xabier Cid
Every mystery novel about literature starts with 3 stars. The fourth comes because this is a quite interesting plot, light despite its topic, and quite fun. The amazing work of writing this patchwork of travel guides and Agatha Christie novels is also impressive.
However, there is not a fifth star. Plot goes mad towards the end, rather out-of-hand for the writer. It seems that characters had gained independence and autonomy, but their novel is more volatile and vague than the previous one written
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Isabelle
This is a good novel, frightening in the real sense of the term inasmuch as the hero takes you along with him from sublimination, to obsession to insanity. All this in Dublin, with a strong literary backdrop; how much better can it get? My problem is that I filled in the blanks of the book with such zeal that I ended up thinking that the hero's two companions were avatars of himself created by his deranged mind. Not the case, from what I gathered from the McCrea's online interviews I read. So no ...more
Michelle Hall
So, I found this book completely captivating.

Until the ending.

The end was a total and complete cop-out on the part of the author. It was like he was bored with continued writing, and slapped a "And they lived happy ever after, the end" ending on the plot. It was really rather sad, how he closed out the book. I was hooked in, the plot was moving along with incredible page-turning speed, and then it ended. Kaput. Just like that. *Way* before I thought the plot was ready to close.

I left it sadly d
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Kerri
Oh man I couldn't get into this. I just found it weird and the character is a jerk, which I'm sure is intended. the main character meets up with two other characters that ask questions and will conveniently find the answer by flipping to a random passage in any book. they meet up for a meeting where they flip and read through selected books and somehow connect with the world in a artsy way. I just gave up. Maybe I should have continued, and something exciting could have happened but I have no de ...more
Alex
What I liked the best about The First Verse was the plot. I thought the idea was very interesting, and the way McCrea portrays it makes it mysterious and understandable at the same time. The premise of the novel is a cult of people who "read" books. Meaning, they talk themselves into a trance, and then feel their way to a bookshelf, to a book, to a page, to a line on that page, and then that answers the question in their mind. I'd like to come up with original plots like this in my writing.
Lisa
Fascinating and confusing story about a young gay man in Dublin who gets caught up in a book cult. They use random passages from books and strange rituals to answer important questions, predict the future, and try to connect to a larger, more mystical organization. It's heartbreaking to watch him tear apart his life, hurt people around him and drive himself insane trying to access deeper and deeper meanings, driving himself on a mad search for the people who got him swept up in this.
Stephanie
This is about a young and closeted gay man - very young, I kept forgetting he was not even 20 as he often seemed older to me - who goes to university and meets some people who bring him into their book-based cult: they consult random books and random passages to answer questions about their lives and to divine the future. Great concept but I, like other reviewers, found the ending abrupt and tacked on - interesting but somehow unsatisfying.
Rachel
Unique premise that kept me engaged through the first third of the book, but the remainder was so dense/tiresome that I couldn't finish it. Fault the reader for that - I found the central character SO. INCESSANTLY. GRATING. that I was unwilling to tolerate another page of his antics.

Still, I'll give the author his due for an original plot and a gift with language. Would definitely give McCrea another go in the future.
Kathleen
I read this novel several years ago. It's about a sort of cult that sucks the main character in as he very much wants to belive that something amazing might be happening that marks him out as a special person. That's the way I felt about the book - there was something mezmerizing about it and made it very hard to forget. You end up feeling as overwhelmed as the main character as you read it - fascinating
Megan Propst
A novel about a cult that decides everything in life by simply choosing a book off a shelf and reading a line or two makes for a brilliant story. I only wish I could have thought of the original idea myself. McCrea did a beautiful job of entwining all the little pieces of the story together, to really grasp a 'bigger picture'. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and am sad that it had to come to an end.
Ron Mohring
I first read an excerpt from this novel in a short fiction anthology a few years back. Though I leapt into this book with high hopes, in the end I couldn't get through it. Somewhere in the middle the prose just felt so leaden, it was only by sheer effort that I could make my way through page by page. I finally abandoned the effort and donated it to a college library.
Ellen Johnson
I don't normally like books of this intensity, but it showed a dark side of mysticism and a sort of chanting to obtain alterred consciousness, something that I like to do. made me think a lot about how this was diff. from my experiences of oneness and what brings in the light and avoids the addiction and despair described here.
Jenny
Mar 31, 2008 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Book lovers
A very satisfying novel: a mysterious book cult, modern day Dublin, the struggles of a young gay man and his life in the closet, academic pressure, peer pressure, and well-crafted prose. Brilliant descriptions. I couldn't get enough of it.
Mark Ward
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Moriah
The story was weak, but the game is fun! Finding "signs" in books by asking the question and thumbing the pages made for a fun bookclub meeting.
Diana
Interesting in the beginning, strong in the middle but in the last part I got disapponted. I really don't like how it finished.
Rachel
Interesting concept, but didn't really find myself caring about the characters. Finished it mostly out of curiosity.
Jeraviz
Bastante simple. La idea es interesante pero podía haber aprovechado mucho más la historia.
†††๑۩۞۩๑morticia Schatten๑۩۞۩๑†††
... quite a good book, but I would preferred having another kind of end...
Greg Wolfson
there is a story here somewhere....
Liz
by far an all time favorite
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McCrea is an Irish writer and academic. He grew up in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, and was educated at the Jesuit Gonzaga College, and Trinity College, Dublin (1993–1997) where he studied French and Spanish literature. He received a Ph.D from Princeton University in 2004, and currently teaches Comparative Literature at Yale University.

His novel The First Verse was published by Carroll & Graf in 2005. I
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More about Barry McCrea...
In the Company of Strangers: Family and Narrative in Dickens, Conan Doyle, Joyce, and Proust Languages of the Night: Minor Languages and the Literary Imagination in Twentieth-Century Ireland and Europe Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories

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