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A Long Long Way

(Dunne Family)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,260 ratings  ·  616 reviews
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 to enlist in the Allied forces and face the Germans on the Western Front. Once there, he encounters a horror of violence and ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 8th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,260 ratings  ·  616 reviews

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Violet wells
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker, 21st-century
This novel about the experiences of an Irish private during WW1 didn’t really engage me until about the half way point when it did massively improve. Firstly, I felt the author bluffed his way a bit through WW1 – sacrificing detail to abstractions, which meant I never quite felt myself in the boots of a private on a WW1 battlefield. And the grandiose biblical (Hemingwayesque) prose style dwarfed the characters for me, turned them into puppets which maybe was clever as what else were all those yo ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Willie Dunn, a painfully earnest young man off to the trenches. He loves his family, his girl, and his comrades at that tender age when life is all first times.

The Algerians were just over to his right. The Algerians sang fine, strange songs most of the day, and at night now he could hear them laughing and talking in a sort of endless excitement.

The trench was soon looking fairly smart.

"That's fucking better now', said the sergeant-major religiously.

They did all that and then lurked in the
Cathrine ☯️
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men who send others off to fight their battles
Shelves: group-challenge
A sorrowful, gut-wrenching tale of the horrors of WWI and the boys who went off to fight for “King and Country” hoping to come into their “bloody manhood at last.” The author expertly leads the reader through gruesome warfare in the trenches with beautiful prose and likable but doomed characters. The dawn and horror of chemical warfare makes its deadly debut:
“The gas boiled in like a familiar ogre. With the same stately gracelessness it rolled to the edge of parapet and then like the heads of
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Howard by: Teresa
It’s a long way to Tipperary
It’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to little Mary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
But my heart’s right there.

World War I, the Great War as it was then known, has produced some outstanding novels recounting the horrific, mind-numbing, dehumanizing experiences of common soldiers locked in the death grip of trench warfare. In the past year I have read two of those books (Three Day Road by Joseph B
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read in a handful of years.

I was moved, beyond words, by the lyrical beauty of the prose in this novel, and by the way it shredded every sentimental thought I'd ever had about the First World War -- the sentimentality of bravery and morality and justice and incorruptibility. Barry's book created fresh wounds within me, and healed them later within the same paragraph, only to create a general ache and heartbreak for an entire generation that was lost.

Our young protagonist was
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie Christine
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
Jul 22, 2012 added it
Shelves: war
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
Katie Lumsden
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I found it an incredibly powerful novel. Very bleak and unflinching, very hard hitting and very brilliant.
Roman Clodia
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

This is a hard book for me to rate as I loved some aspects of it and was disappointed by others. Firstly, I'd say that if you're familiar with the memoirs, poetry, fiction and non-fiction of WW1, both from the time and contemporary to us, then there's little that is new. I came to this expecting more to be made of the Irish status of the characters but I felt this was under-developed. More of this later. I did, though, learn about the thousands of Chinese labourers who were employed as
Jul 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
With all of my reading of WWI, I had yet to get the Irish perspective. There is a short bibliography at the back of this edition, and I see there are some nonfiction entries. But I'm primarily a fiction reader.

I think as a WWI novel, this doesn't quite make it into the top ranks. Barry seems unable to let us get close to Willie Dunne when he is in the war. I always felt set apart, that I was looking on from a distance, that there was a chasm between the reader and the soldier. In my genealogy r
An impressive and very moving book on the lives of Irish soldiers in World War One and the harsh treatment of veterans by the Republicans. Barry's books all tell parts of the story of the same extended family.
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
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-c-fiction
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
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Eamon Doody
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well written novel set in the First World War.
Different from others in that the soldiers were Irish so the events back home put into question their loyalty to the side that they were fighting for and added an extra element of despair and futility to what they were going through. Well worth a read as something a bit different on the subject but extremely depressing as a result!
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, 4-star
A bittersweet ending that I knew was going to happen but didn't want to.
John of Canada
There are several brilliant reviews of this in Goodreads.To me it's the story of a young irish lad who wanted to measure up,and did so,at great cost in spite of and because of a horrible war,at home and abroad.
Dawn (& Ron)
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book somehow passed me by on release, but I received it as a gift from a GR friend at Christmas who knows my tastes well, and was massively impressed by it.

Combining the horrors of war for the ordinary private with the added complication of being an Irish soldier in the trenches as the country reacts to the Rising and its aftermath, the book is so powerful in its blunt portrayal of life and death in the trenches, as well as behind the lines and at home.

One that will live long in the memory
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
The writing in this book was just beautiful, but I have realized that war stories really aren't my thing. It was a bit of a slog for me making my way through this, as the vast majority of the book takes place on the battlefield. I will absolutely read more by this author, though, as I did love the writing itself.
Terry Pearce
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book really captures -- maybe more than any other -- the randomness and confusion of war. The protagonist, Willie, and those around him rarely know what's happening or why. It also manages to capture the confusion of Willie's conflicting feelings about heroism, war, the Easter Uprising and the struggles in Ireland. It carries Willie through the world crashing down around him until you wonder where he can go, in life, and so it then captures as well as anyone has the distance between a retur ...more
Craig Monson
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sign me up in the camp that finds so much to admire in Barry’s tale of an Irish lad who reaches manhood in the trenches of World War I, told in the usual dense, poetic style that characterizes Barry's novels. Readers need to proceed slowly. (It is interesting that his novels often tend to be slim volumes.) Those whose tastes run only to the terseness of, say, Hammett or Hemingway (or perhaps Walter Winchell) will likely find Barry’s style a slog. The plot’s inevitabilities are never much in doub ...more
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book about the Irish fighting in the first World War. Before this book, I hadn't really put together that the Irish fight for Home Rule was taking place during WWI.
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Reading the 20th ...: A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (November 2018) 38 24 Nov 15, 2018 01:30PM  
R.L. Stine on NPR 12 55 Nov 30, 2014 10:42AM  
Goodreads Ireland: November-January Quarterly Read Nominations: A Long Long Way 15 21 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

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
“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.” 21 likes
“It had been a war of kingly poisons, in the air, in the memory, in the blood.” 3 likes
More quotes…