Nilus Moore, a young Irish boy, lives with his father in their decaying, shambolic house. Haunted by the death of his mother, he escapes the chaos outside in the refuge of his room where he plays obsessively with an enormous matt-black jigsaw, its orderly perfection an answer to his loss. His garlic-chewing father has taken to his bed with a bottle of brandy, oblivious of his own brother's plans to demolish his already crumbling house. As the rest of his world seems to tumble around him, Nilus has to struggle to keep his home - and his sanity - from falling apart.
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Jamie O'Neill was brought up in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. He spent ten years working as a night porter whilst writing AT SWIM, TWO BOYS.From Publishers Weekly:
Nilus, protagonist of this mordant psychological tale, finds his world falling down around his ears. After his mother dies, his sickly, eccentric father gets embroiled in a battle with his uncle, an ex-socialist turned wealthy businessman who is trying to demolish their run-down house and neighborhood to make room for an office development. To block it all out, Nilus develops an obsessive-compulsive complex, fixating on chipped crockery and bedsheet creases, and continually scrambling and remaking a featureless black jigsaw puzzle, as if by rectifying tiny elements of disorder he can escape the larger chaos of life. As Nilus's longing for meaningful pattern degenerates from a droll disdain for human messiness into dark hallucination, he uncomprehendingly absorbs the Irish conflict between a comforting if rigid mythic and revolutionary past and a disillusioned, prosaic present. Published now in America in the wake of his well-received At Swim, Two Boys, O'Neill's debut is less accomplished than that later work. His gifts for quirky characters and witty, evocative language are only sporadically present in the somewhat slack narrative. Nilus's rather schematically drawn psychopathology is indebted to precursors from Norman Bates to John Fowles's The Collector, and his story lapses into trite gothic melodrama.
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Book Description Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110297794922