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At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill
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At Swim, Two Boys (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Jamie O'Neill

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1,444None5,189 (4.27)95
Member:KerryD1971
Title:At Swim, Two Boys
Authors:Jamie O'Neill
Info:Scribner (2002), Paperback, 656 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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Tags:Fiction

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At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill (2001)

1001 (20) 1001 books (23) 20th century (25) 21st century (18) coming of age (36) Dublin (19) fiction (297) friendship (14) gay (107) Gay Fiction (33) gay literature (15) glbt (19) historical (29) historical fiction (77) history (17) homosexuality (32) Ireland (135) Irish (72) Irish literature (29) lgbt (20) literature (27) novel (42) queer (27) read (14) romance (24) sexuality (17) to-read (48) unread (22) war (17) WWI (12)
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English (39)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
O'Neill's epic novel nearly defies description, but I'll give it a try anyway: it's an Irish novel; a gay novel; a history of colonialism, nationalism, and rebellion; a more personal history of the search for sexual freedom; a coming of age story; a tender romance; a love triangle that's made more of love than of jealousy; an unsentimental examination of the social and sexual lives of gay men in the early 20th century; a gorgeous example of the rhythms of Irish dialect in literature.

I stayed up late last night to finish it, and then stayed up later to cry over it, which is not a thing that I do. After having met such characters, though, and having read such a book, I had no choice. ( )
  circumspice | Mar 23, 2014 |
Another book to rip your heart out... and I mean that in the very best way possible. Fabulous!

The words are beautiful. You might want to look up the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland if you are not familiar with it, as it is the backdrop to this beautiful coming of age love story of two 16 year old boys, Jim Mack and Doyler Doyle, and of their friend Mr. MacMurrough (MacEmm). They are the lead characters in the story, but so is the growing rebellious spirit that leads to the Irish Republican Army and the Rebellion that took place the week of April 23 - 27, 1916. The secondary characters in the book were wonderful too. Mr. Mack, Jim's father, is a shopkeeper who is a little out of touch with reality as far as his son is concerned, and totally taken by surprise by the events of the Easter Uprising. He doesn't understand why anyone would want to be out from under British rule. Also, Mr. MacMurrough's aunt Eveline, an aging woman of means who is quite vested in a free Ireland. There are others, and their places are so important to the story as a whole. I know that some people have found the book difficult to read. The dialect is at first difficult, (and I grew up hearing a lot of that), but if you stick with it, the prose is like music. It takes you along on a beautiful dance through this story of love and loyalty. This could be called gay fiction, but it really is so much more than that. ( )
1 vote NanaCC | Jun 13, 2013 |
What a beautiful book altogether. Every character is perfectly drawn, set and completed in this excellent novel. Call it gay lit, or Irish literature, a bildungsroman, or a historical novel, it is Literature with the big "L". It explores the nature of love, of patriotism, of honor, of family, of history, within the context of the Irish independence movement, just before the doomed Rising of Easter Monday, 1916. It ends as you know all along it will, and though it's hard to accept, it's quite right, too. The language is so lovely, I wanted to roll around in it the way a cat rolls in nip. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jun 6, 2013 |
"He slept that night thinking of loves and lighthouses. That one love might shine to bring all loves home." (456)


Reminiscent of Corelli's Mandolin, Call Me By Your Name, and A Man of No Importance. ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
i always feel a little bad for the books that come after amazing reads. am i comparing them? should i be comparing them? this book got better as it went along; is that because i was still on such a high from my last read that my expectations were too big at the start of this one? i don't know.

what i do know is that based on content, you'd think i'd love this book. it deals with things like revolution, socialism, classism, homosexual coming of age, gender bias. but i really, really didn't like the way it was written, even with his clever twisting of words and the way he made up words, combinations and otherwise. (i think this is probably why he is compared to james joyce, especially since they're both irish.) and i also really don't like the way he wrote about prostitution and rape. parts of the story kept me reading, but others i was less interested in.

but, here's something good to take away from it:

"Will he never learn 'tis the mark of a gent, not that hats are lifted to him, but that he lifts his hat to others?"

"The universality of things abstracted him. That, for instance, there should be smoothened surfaces for the use of traffic, and that these roads should come from the country and, meeting the city, should turn into streets. ... But come sir, enough of the paving: what of the people? Let the people be classified into sexes, of which there shall be two, male and female. The criterion shall be generative function, though please to note, this function is ideal and not actual: the prepubescent, the celibate, the emasculate, the nulliparous, the non-generative for whatever reason, shall yet be classified by sex. They shall be male or female. Female or male shall they be, though the greater shall be male. Come come sir, enough about gender. The people shall further be graded according to wealth, and - humorous touch this - the more obviously a man labor, the more stinting shall be his reward; the more he work in the out-of-doors, the thinner his clothing shall be; the more his labor filthy him, the less water shall he have to wash. ..." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Part One 1915:

I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other's necks;

By the love of comrades.-------
Walt Whitman
Part Two 1916:
ecce abstulisti hominem de hac vita, cum vix explevisset annum in amicitia mea, suavi mihi super omnes suavitates illius vitae meae.

St. Augustine

Dedication
à Julien

mon ami, mon amour
First words
There goes Mr. Mack, cock of the town.
Quotations
'Would age forbid them?'

'Rather youth permits. The not knowing and the slowness of days. Lack of imagination may move mountains.'
I wasn’t being thick, nor mean, he wanted to say. It’s not the time for a boy to be a man. Wait till the war was over.
'Damn it all, MacMurrough, are you telling me you are an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort?'
'If you mean am I Irish, the answer is yes.'
Pleasant to swim in the rain, they say. It would lower your temperature already so the rain wouldn’t feel so cold. It would be hard getting in, you’d have to push yourself, but were you in already, that would be pleasant. That would be a freedom, to be out in the rain and not to trouble. Your trouble in your pile of clothes.
Freedom was never to be given or argued for: it might only be taken.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743222954, Paperback)

You may have read the hype. Irishman Jamie O'Neill was working as a London hospital porter when his 10-year labor of love, the 200,000-word manuscript of At Swim, Two Boys, written on a laptop during quiet patches at work, was suddenly snapped up for a hefty six-figure advance. For once, the book fully deserves the hype.

In the spring of 1915, Jim Mack and "the Doyler," two Dublin boys, make a pact to swim to an island in Dublin Bay the following Easter. By the time they do, Dublin has been consumed by the Easter Uprising, and the boys' friendship has blossomed into love--a love that will in time be overtaken by tragedy. O'Neill's prose, playing merrily with vocabulary, syntax, and idiom, has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, but in his creation of comic characters (such as Jim's pathetic but irrepressible father) and in the sheer scale of his work, Charles Dickens springs to mind first. But Dickens never wrote a love story between young men as achingly beautiful as this.

In the character of Anthony MacMurrough, who is haunted by voices as he pursues his illegal and dangerous desire for Dublin boys, O'Neill has created a complex and fascinating center to his novel, rescuing the love story from mawkishness, and allowing a serious meditation on history, politics, and desire. For as Ireland seeks its own future free of British government, so Jim, Doyle, and MacMurrough look back to Sparta to find a way to live. As Dr Scrotes, one of MacMurrough's voices, commands:

Help these boys build a nation of their own. Ransack the histories for clues to their past. Plunder the literature for words they can speak.
In this massive, enthralling, and brilliant debut, Jamie O'Neill has indeed done just that: provided a nation for what Walt Whitman calls, in O'Neill's epigraph, "the love of comrades." --Alan Stewart, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:18 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Two young men, Jim, the naive, scholarly son of a Dublin shopkeeper, and Doyler, a rough working boy, struggle with issues of political, religious, and sexual identity in the year leading up to the Easter uprising of 1916.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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