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At Swim, Two Boys (2001)

by Jamie O'Neill

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1,894536,490 (4.21)134
"Set in Dublin, At Swim, Two Boys follows the year to Easter 1916, the time of Ireland's brave but fractured uprising against British rule. O'Neill tells the story of the love of two boys: Jim, a naive and reticent scholar and the younger son of the foolish aspiring shopkeeper Mr. Mack, and Doyler, the dark, rough-diamond son of Mr. Mack's old army pal. Doyler might once have made a scholar like Jim, but his folks sent him to work, and now, schoolboy no more, he hauls the parish midden cart, with socialism and revolution and willful blasphemy stuffed under his cap." "And yet the future is rose, Jim's father is sure. His elder son is away fighting the Hun for God and the British Army, and he has such plans for Jim and their corner shop empire. But Mr. Mack cannot see that the landscape is changing, nor does he realize the depth of Jim's burgeoning friendship with Doyler. Out at the Forty Foot, the great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the scandalous nude, the two boys meet day after day. There they make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, Easter 1916, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
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English (51)  German (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The story of Ireland and the Irish uprising of 1916 by Jamie O'Neill is a coming of age story of two gay boys. It is written in SOC and Irish jargon and that makes it a bit difficult to get into but pushing on helps a and soon I was hearing the lilt. Still you had to guess at a lot of words because wikipedia look-up on kindle was no help. The story of the uprising was well done. I liked the historical aspect of the book as well. I generally do not like reading books with sexual content and this book has that as well. It is a romance novel between two gay boys. Sometimes it is very sweet but there is also details that a person may not want to read. I liked the characters, they were interesting. The most interesting to me was the older man, he is the one that "makes progress in the novel". He is seen in the beginning as a lonely man, isolated, living in his own thoughts of his past and I think he is grieving. In the end, he has gotten out of himself and is doing things for others, helping the two boys in their relationship and getting involved in Irish life. Published in 2001, historical gay romance. ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 6, 2020 |
I'm divided on this one it is generally very good. The characters are lovingly expressed and the action vividly portrayed. The homosexual sex might be a turn off for a lot of people, in a movie would give it an R rating, I certainly found it gross. But the general story is quite good. ( )
  charlie68 | Oct 2, 2020 |
One of the best novels I've ever read. ( )
  misterebby | Jul 5, 2020 |
2/9/18 Marking for reread. ( )
  Jeeps | Sep 21, 2019 |
Here is a book I wanted to like more than I did.

Don't get me wrong, At Swim, Two Boys has some stunning lines that I could already imagine on a million tumblr edits. There was a lot of potential here and it hits a market that I think is highly lacking in literature (I'm talking historical queer romance). But...

But.

Okay so first off, this is a hard book to read. The writing is, in many ways, very sophisticated and so it takes a while to get into the rhythm of it. It's stream-of-consciousness and flips between characters without hesitation. Plus, it's Irish and full of slang and such that I am entirely unfamiliar with. So the first 50 pages or so are rough, but then things start to get easier.

Second, I didn't care for, uhhhhhhhhh, about 50% of the story. I liked Doyler and Jim. I cared about Doyler and Jim. Everything else was background, and I found myself zoning out for page after page when it wasn't focused on them.

Third, okay, the romance was pretty good. It wasn't an idealized romance: it was rough and messy and felt very real and very era-appropriate. It was sweet and sad and fulfilling and I quite enjoyed that.

And fourth.... the ending was horrible.

H o r r i b l e.

It's the kind of ending you know is going to happen because you're not an idiot, but you're hoping the author has the guts to do something different, but he doesn't. He gives you exactly what you think he'll give you, and it's entirely unsatisfying. Yawn.

500 pages that should have been 200.

And that's that. ( )
  ainjel | Jun 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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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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Wikipedia in English (1)

"Set in Dublin, At Swim, Two Boys follows the year to Easter 1916, the time of Ireland's brave but fractured uprising against British rule. O'Neill tells the story of the love of two boys: Jim, a naive and reticent scholar and the younger son of the foolish aspiring shopkeeper Mr. Mack, and Doyler, the dark, rough-diamond son of Mr. Mack's old army pal. Doyler might once have made a scholar like Jim, but his folks sent him to work, and now, schoolboy no more, he hauls the parish midden cart, with socialism and revolution and willful blasphemy stuffed under his cap." "And yet the future is rose, Jim's father is sure. His elder son is away fighting the Hun for God and the British Army, and he has such plans for Jim and their corner shop empire. But Mr. Mack cannot see that the landscape is changing, nor does he realize the depth of Jim's burgeoning friendship with Doyler. Out at the Forty Foot, the great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the scandalous nude, the two boys meet day after day. There they make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, Easter 1916, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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