Frank O'connor's Reviews > A Long Long Way

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
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Feb 19, 09

Read in February, 2009

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 that strikes in the right way for the context.

The story is episodic, but this is hardly surprising given that it's about the experiences of an Irish volunteer in the great war. The set pieces themselves, though, are simply stunning. Some of the more memorable ones include a gas attack and the Easter rebellion of 1916. Barry is a master of story telling. He seamlessly blends point of view and controls the release of information to create tight insights that grip the reader.

Having finished the lot now, I think I can safely say that this is one of the best books I have read in a long time, probably a lifetime. The final chapters are hugely moving and tie up earlier events very well. Lots of originality, insight and powerful storytelling here.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Richard You are so right about Barry's style and sentence structure, but it doesn't falter, and that's the beauty of it - he pulls it off book length. I was astounded.


message 2: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Barry works in the grand style of the Irish poets and playwrights, a school into which he fits beautifully.


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