Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
First published in 2005 by Faber and Faber. Ebook edition published in 2010.

One of my WorldReads from Ireland

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from /
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'One of the most vivid and realised characters of recent fiction, Willie Dunne is the innocent hero of Sebastian Barry's highly acclaimed novel. Leaving Dublin to fight for the Allied cause as a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, he finds himself caught between the war playing out on foreign fields and that festering at home, waiting to erupt with the Easter Rising. Profoundly moving, intimate and epic, "A Long Long Way" charts and evokes a terrible coming of age, one too often written out of history.'

It was very interesting to read about the First World War from an Irish perspective although, being English myself, this was another novel which made me groan at the terrible way my country treated not only Ireland and the Irish but many other countries around the world. Thousands of young and not-so-young Irishmen joined the British Army on the promise of Home Rule at the end of The Great War and were actively encouraged to do so with enthusiastic send-offs and a white feather campaign against those who didn't volunteer. A couple of years later these same men, or the ones that survived at least, were being lined up to shoot at their own people and spat on in the streets for being 'English' soldiers.

Barry doesn't hold back in his descriptions of the horrific conditions in the trenches. Our young hero, Willie, is at Ypres and fights the Somme battles, his initial heartbreakingly naive optimism slowly giving way to emotional numbness and debilitating shock. I loved the strong Irish feel throughout this story and the repeated inclusion of the many peoples from all over the world who came to fight. The global aspect is often overlooked in war fiction, but A Long Long Way draws a powerful portrait of a truly World War. Most of all for me, A Long Long Way felt like an honest picture of a man and his family at the time. This isn't a saccharine novel of jolly lads together and faithful sweethearts back home. Reading this book almost exactly a century after one of its most remembered battles was a moving experience and, even though Barry wrote disgusting images that I would much rather not have imagined, I think this is an important story for a wide audience.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sebastian Barry / War books / Books from Ireland

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