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A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry

A Long, Long Way (2005)

by Sebastian Barry

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
924489,467 (3.99)68
  1. 20
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (starfishian)
  2. 00
    The Absolutist by John Boyne (SandSing7)
    SandSing7: Both poignant, moving takes on World War I by Irish writers.
  3. 00
    The Red and the Green by Iris Murdoch (cf66)
    cf66: Molto diverse narrativamente,si rifanno allo stesso momento storico

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One of the most powerful novels I have ever read about World War I is Erich Maria Remarque's classic novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. Now I can add Sebastian Barry's 2005 novel, A Long, Long Way to that very short list.
The Irish author and playwright sends barely eighteen-year-old Willie Dunne to Flanders in this harrowing account of divided loyalties and the realities of war. Willie's story begins with one of the most beautiful first lines I have ever read: He was born in the dying days. The first chapter follows a simple, short recap of Willie's young life and stops when he sees in love at first with the beautiful young Gretta Lawlor.
Next, it's 1914, and Willie finds himself on the front lines, a Dubliner fighting with the Allied forces against Germany on the Western Front. Readers experience the horrors of life in the trenches and the devastating affects of the gas attacks. Willie has never encountered such violence and such a tragic waste of life. Letters from home and his buddies help keep his spirits bolstered, but as friend after friend becomes a statistic in the wounded and dead toll, Willie struggles to understand the new world around him.
When he does get a leave and goes home, Dublin is much different than when he left. While his sisters are overjoyed he's home, his father is deeply disappointed in some of Willie's views, and his sweetheart, Gretta, has bad news for him. He rushes back to the front, more comfortable with the war and the havoc it wracks than he is at home.
While A Long, Long Way is not a page-turner, it is compulsive reading. It was short listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Nobel Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee sums up Barry's work best, A deeply moving story of courage and fidelity" that should be mandatory reading in high school. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | May 23, 2017 |
Such a harrowing book and yet so tender. Sebastian Barry is so good at both. ( )
  b.beaumont | Jan 22, 2017 |
Review: A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry.

I like the way the writing was done in a poetic style with beautiful organized sentences. Sebastian has a way of creating visual combinations from luxury to bleakness mixed together in a paragraph that sends a shuttering feeling through the reader’s body. The style is formatted throughout the story while being in the setting of the war and brutality between the Irish and English soldiers and the life of the main character, Willie Dunne. The story is told in a unique way and sadness flows through the pages but it’s worth the read.

The story is about a war time between the English and Irish nationalist. The intention was to fight the Germans but some of the biggest enemies where in their own country…The framework is surrounded around a trouble history of Ireland during a time when they were all Irish but divided between those who believed in Home Rule and those who didn’t. Willie Dunne seems to take the war in stride crawling threw trenches, surviving almost being suffocated with mustard gas, hunger, digging make-shift graves, losing comrades, walking over dead bodies, sharing trenches with dead enemies, and the terrible environment in no-man’s-land where many men were slaughtered.

Some of the characters were unforgettable: the priest who prayed over bodies of dead soldiers, even while under attack, and the officer who would not leave his place because his commander did not order him to and most of all Willie did not want to be a soldier. He wanted to follow in his father’s footstep and become a British Police Officer but his height hindered his dream. Willie was only eighteen years old when he joined the Military. His view and perception of the war were different then a lot of his comrades. He really didn’t understand what all the commotion was about. Willie just wanted to settled down and have a family but the tables got turned on him and he lost his country, he lost being a family man, he lost friends and most of all he lost himself in a battle of confusion, misunderstanding’s, in a no-man’s land……A very heartwarming story and artistically written….

( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
Strongly recommend that you do not finish this audio book on public transport. And make sure you have tissues.
This is the story about a young Irish boy, Willie Dunne, who joins the first world war for really no reason other than he feels it's the right thing to do. There's some sort of promise by the British that it will lead to Home Rule, but it seems to be more of a great movement that he doesn't want to be left out of.
Willie is so naïve to start, that it doesn't ring true, but the total incomprehensibility of the war certainly does. He goes into actions that have no discernible purpose, fighting evil weapons like mustard gas that nobody is even aware of and coming up against the British hierarchy in the war that has no sympathy for the Irish, but does have a great deal of contempt.
Willie finds himself on the out with his countrymen because he has joined the army and also on the out with his father, a very traditional supporter of the British in Ireland, because he starts to ask questions. He ends up with no place to call home but the army and the mates he has made there.
Sebastian is a real poet of prose. The book is very nicely narrated by John Cormack. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
Slight disappointment despite some vivid description of the front-line in WW1 and an intriguing angle in the Irish ambivalent involvement in defence of the Empire. The central character Willie Dunn remains a bit of a blank screen ( common enough device in novels). I was hoping he'd get back to Ireland and the Troubles but {Spoiler alert!) he doesn't, and this reader was unmoved by his fate. The futility of the trenches is well-rendered but it's been so often and so well done before that we just feel numb and deja vu. But the real lack is Story, Plot, Development. Barry's "On canaan's Side" is much stronger, both in character and story.
For WW1 go to "All Quiet on the Western Front", Goodbye to All That", "Birdsong" and several more. ( )
  vguy | Dec 25, 2015 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:14 -0400)

(see all 6 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)

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