The beginning of the book was a bit boring and the present-day narrator felt intrusive. I didn't care much for Charles either. He came across as a bit pathetic, chasing after a mostly unlikeable woman who wasn't the least bit interested in him. However, about a quarter of the way into the book, things began to improve. The history became more interesting, more was revealed about the present-day narrator, and Charles developed a backbone (and a personality). By the time I reached the end, I'd learned quite a bit about Ireland's history, I liked almost all of the characters, and I'd decided that I liked the book, too. It was worthing wading through the boring bits at the beginning.