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A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
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A Long Long Way (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Sebastian Barry

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7854211,730 (4.01)49
Member:sagustocox
Title:A Long Long Way
Authors:Sebastian Barry
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2005), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry (2005)

  1. 20
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (starfishian)
  2. 00
    The Red and the Green by Iris Murdoch (panbiot)
    panbiot: Molto diverse narrativamente,si rifanno allo stesso momento storico
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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 gore he could not have imagined and sustains his spirit with only the words on the pages from home and the camaraderie of the mud-covered Irish boys who fight and die by his side. Dimly aware of the political tensions that have grown in Ireland in his absence, Willie returns on leave to find a world split and ravaged by forces closer to home. Despite the comfort he finds with his family, he knows he must rejoin his regiment and fight until the end. With grace and power, Sebastian Barry vividly renders Willie’s personal struggle as well as the overwhelming consequences of war. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
A really good read and very well written. Loved the honest description of the inner struggle within the Irish people, to support England during WW1 and in the fight for Irish Independence. It educated me on just how much support was given to England in the form of Irish lives. Whole divisions of the British Army were manned by soldiers from Ireland. When they came home from that war after seeing their army buddies die, both Irish and English, the Irish soldiers who had joined the British Army were then shunned by their own people for fighting "on the wrong side." An impossible situation for anyone who survived the war and got to "go home" and how terribly tragic. Barry brought to life a part of Irish history that is often overlooked and more than that, was able to bring us into the heads of the poor lads caught up in it. This was the first book of his I read and definitely won't be the last. ( )
  BrendaRT20 | Oct 11, 2013 |
This is a good book set in World War 1.
The main character Willie Dunne a Dublin Policemans son volunteers to fight against the Germans he is sent over to Belguim.
Willie while on home leave witnesses the rebels in Dublin start to rise.

He is confused serves King and Country suffers huge loses to his regiment. He also falls out with his father when he writes to tell him his feelings. He returns to Dublin on leave but the damage to his relationship with his father has been done.

Willle returns to action is injured writes to his father his father sees sense replies to Willie, but the letter arrives to late. Willie dies in action just a few months before the war is due to end.

Very moving book. ( )
  Daftboy1 | Apr 29, 2013 |
ebook version
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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 half dozen pages. His God-style narrative was all over the place, prattling about and preening like some senile auntie with a bad case of lingual diarrhea. If there was a way to use just one adverb in a sentence, Barry found it in himself to use two or even three instead, and he was exactly as plentiful with his adjectives. If he didn't use irritating similes, it were metaphors or even more convoluted structures. Foreshadowing was done with such a heavy hand that you spotted it when it happened and groaned when it was borne out. There wasn't a clean or elegant sentence in the whole book.

In consequence this created a fog of distraction and drivel separating me quite thoroughly from the characters. I didn't care fig about any of them, even Willie's death left me completely cold, especially as cheap tricks, such as a suddenly procured petty letter from a soldier pal (which wouldn't ever have made it through censoring, even if anyone at the time would have behaved like that!) and a near miss with the relevant hospital stay and the golden-hearted nurse, were used to dramatise it.

The plot was a dime a dozen, even though the angle of the Irish volunteers could have been used to create a good, a different war novel. Barry used this instead for cheap parlour tricks, such as adding artificial conflicts and drama to the book's end.

It's the story told so many times: virginal boy volunteers for silly or idealistic reasons, finds his manhood, death, fear, terror and heroism over the next years, sees his share of atrocities and stupidities and is killed the last moment for his own foolishness of committing a needless humane act, of course without being able to make it up with his father as another tearjerking device.

There wasn't a WWI cliche Barry didn't exploit, such as the SAD, singing at Christmas, faithless family and friends at home, but it has all been done much better by others. Particularly exasperating were the factual errors which riddled the book, such as the repeated mention of mustard gas employed long before it was manufactured, with its effects being faultily described as well. Actions which would have resulted in quite different consequences in the real army, and representations (SAD) which belittled and denied what took place in reality.

Something which really got my goat is how Barry "dumbed down" everything to represent a commoner/working class lad. That was done in such an arrogant manner, that I found it setting my teeth on edge. Barry's fascination with penises, peckers, clap-ridden whores (another gimmick) and soldiers pissing and shitting themselves didn't add realism, at least not the way he wrote it. Instead it just came over as another abuse of data.

I never developed any attachment to one of the characters in this book, no sympathy, no compassion or pity. I never found myself caring about what took place, and the many described atrocities bored me. The whole book was reeking with self-love and self-agenda, borne out by the repeated use of cheap manipulations instead of honest storytelling.

Something which needs specific address:

Barry did not write men of 1914-1918, he wrote modern men and how they would have behaved transposed to former time. There were so many instances where the behaviour he described was quite clearly modern (e.g. the backstabbing petty reaction of one of his pals, but also the open and acknowledged fear, something people then didn't do, the behaviour of the Irish SAD), that this was a constant itch while I read.

Without the facts got so wrong and a more sympathetic treatment of the main character I might have given this 2*, but needlessly engineering them for the scare and this arrogant treatment of working class people decided me to go with the 1*.

And as I feel I have to explain my gripe about style, here some examples of what I talk about:

The winter sleet bit into the Dublin cab-men, where they gathered in their mucky gabardines by the Round Room in Great Britain Street. The stony face of the old building remained indifferent, with its strange decoration of ox-skulls and draperies.

The new babies screeched inside the thick grey walls of the Rotunda Hospital. Blood gathered on the nurses' white laps like the aprons of butchers.

He was a little baby and would be always a little boy. He was like the thin upper arm of a beggar with a few meagre bones shot through him, provisional and bare.

When he broke from his mother he made a mewling sound like a wounded cat, over and over.
This is the first half page and he manages to cram 3 similes (two tired ones and a pretentious one) and 1 metaphor into a mere 115 words (or 4 sentences). He also manages to foreshadow the threatening war with such a heavy hand, that if this were a cheap movie you'd have foreboding music score right there. That's a feat to do in but 115 words.

Here's another example:

Death was a muddle of sorts, things thrown in their way to make them stumble and fall. It was hard and hard again to make any path through the humbled souls. The quick rats maybe had had their way with eyes and lips; the sightless sockets peered at the living soldiers, the lipless teeth all seemed to have just cracked mighty jokes. They were seriously grinning. Hundreds more were face down, and turned on their sides, as if not interested in such awful mirth, showing the gashes where missing arms and legs had been, their breasts torn away, and hundreds and hundres of floating hands, and legs, and big heavy puddles of guts and offal, all mixed through the loam and sharded vegetation. And as solid as the ruined flesh was the smell, a stench of a million rotted pheasants, that settled on their tongues like a liquid.
Now compare this big sauce of words meant to describe the horrors of death and carnage with a mere few short sentences written by Guy Chapman, who actually was there and describes practically the same basic scene of walking across a field of dead:

My eye caught something white and shining. I stooped. It was the last five joints of a spine. There was nothing else, no body, no flesh.
One is the description of someone enamoured with his own voice, the other is spare, truly horrific and restrained elegance driving home the salient point of it.

I could give further examples, but I think this is quite enough to illustrate what I talk about.


( )
  Steelwhisper | Mar 31, 2013 |
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For Roy Foster, in friendship
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143035096, Paperback)

Praised as a “master storyteller” (The Wall Street Journal) and hailed for his “flawless use of language” (Boston Herald), 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 gore he could not have imagined and sustains his spirit with only the words on the pages from home and the camaraderie of the mud-covered Irish boys who fight and die by his side.  Dimly aware of the political tensions that have grown in Ireland in his absence, Willie returns on leave to find a world split and ravaged by forces closer to home. Despite the comfort he finds with his family, he knows he must rejoin his regiment and fight until the end. With grace and power, Sebastian Barry vividly renders Willie’s personal struggle as well as the overwhelming consequences of war.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:59 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Set at the onset of World War One, 'A Long Long Way' evokes the camaraderie and humour of Willie Dunne and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, but also the divided loyalties that many Irish soldiers felt. It also explores and dramatizes the events of the Easter Rising within Ireland.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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