The Whereabouts Of Eneas McNulty

Barry, Sebastian

Published by Viking Press, 1998
ISBN 10: 0670878286 / ISBN 13: 9780670878284
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New York. 1998. Viking Press. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Dustjacket. 30. 320 pages. hardcover. Signed by The Author. 0670878286. keywords: July 5. inventory # 25874. FROM THE PUBLISHER - For Eneas McNulty, a happy, innocent childhood in County Sligo in the early 1900s gives way to an Ireland wracked by violence and conflict. Unable to find work in the depressed times after World War I, Eneas joins the British-led police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary - a decision that alters the course of his life. Branded a traitor by Irish nationalists and pursued by IRA hitmen, Eneas is forced to flee his homeland, his family, and Viv, the woman he loves. His wandering terminates on the Isle of Dogs, a haven for sailors, where a lifetime of loss is redeemed by a final act of generosity. THE WHEREABOUTS OF ENEAS MCNULTY is the story of a lost man and a compelling saga that illuminates Ireland's complex history. Bookseller Inventory # 25874

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Synopsis: Recently lionized for his play The Steward of Christendom, Sebastian Barry was hailed by The New York Times for his "rare mark of theatrical greatness." The New Yorker called the play "a majestic work." Now, with this astounding first novel, he enters the territory of Frank McCourt and James Joyce. When Barry's hero, the romantic innocent Eneas McNulty, signs up to fight with the British in World War I. An Ireland wracked by the Troubles blacklists him as a traitor--and it is his childhood friend, Jonno, who has been ordered to assassinate him. He is pursued by IRA hit men across a lifetime, to Texas, Nigeria, Omaha Beach, and the remote Isle of Man. A modern-day Aeneas, he is a classical hero disguised beneath an ordinary, tragicomic life. His wanderings embody both the strife and glory of Ireland's history, in a book that, as the Irish Times wrote of his famous play, is "wonderful...lyrical and profound, extremely funny, extraordinarily observant...hauntingly sad."

Review: These days, Frank McCourt would seem to have cornered the market on lyrical depictions of Celtic poverty. But never fear, Sebastian Barry--the brilliant Irish playwright, poet, and prose-wrangler--is here. His new novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty recounts the odyssey of a small-town innocent, who grows up in circumstances more bucolic, but no less threadbare, than McCourt's. It's clear from the very first paragraph, however, that Barry means to take a wide-angle view of his Irish urchin: "In the middle of the lonesome town, at the back of John Street, in the third house from the end, there is a little room. For this small bracket in the long paragraph of the street's history, it belongs to Eneas McNulty. All about him the century has just begun, a century some of which he will endure, but none of which will belong to him."

Having handily survived his Sligo childhood, Eneas joins the British Army in time for World War I--and upon his return home, finds himself shunned as a collaborator. Tarred with this very Britannic brush, he goes one better and enlists in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Alas, this move only cements his fate as a marked man, and his father is soon issued a warning: "Let your son keep out of Sligo if he wants to keep his ability to walk." With a price on his head, Eneas commences a life of wandering, from Mexico to Africa to Nigeria (which the moonlight, he notices, "brings closer to Ireland.") From time to time he sneaks back to Sligo and is promptly expelled.

In another author's hands, this epic of dislocation could well be a bitter one. Yet the stoical and simple-minded Eneas is surprisingly free of anguish, and even his constant fear "has become something else, could he dare call it strength, a privacy anyhow." And the reader, at least, has the delightful distraction of Barry's prose, in which the occasional Joycean notes are entirely subsumed by the author's own colloquial brilliance. In the end, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty is less a novel than an exhibition of bardic fireworks--a latter-day Aeniad that's actually worthy of the name. --James Marcus

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Whereabouts Of Eneas McNulty
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: hardcover
Book Condition: Very Good In Dustjacket
Edition: 1st Edition.

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Book Description Viking/Penguin, New York, 1998. 1st US edition, 1st printing.. 5-3/4 x 8-3/4, 308 pp Fine unmarked, in Fine unclipped jacket. Hardcover in black/green boards, in color photo jacket. Bookseller Inventory # 27627

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