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A tense and compassionate story of a victim of circumstances
If you know the Sherlock Holmes story "Valley of Fear" you will think that you understand the dilemma of Eneas McNulty, who is sentenced to death by members of a ultra-nationalist group in his hometown of Sligo. But Conan Doyle sees the Irish as temperamentally prone to violence. Barry understands the traumas of Irish history more clearly and more compassionately. His writing style, which uses third person narration, follows the thoughts and feelings of his protagonist as he struggles to comprehend the life seemingly dealt to him by some evil genius. Despite his suffering, Eneas is wonderful character, honest, humane, ultimately wise. As in his other books, Barry connects the plight of the Irish to those of other colonials allied or resisting British rule. Here our wandering Irishman bonds with men inhabiting the bars of Galveston, the fishing boats off the coast of Scotland, and the canal digging operations of Nigeria. His adventures only intensify his desire for a wife and a home. Eneas's journey challenges any easy definition of home and country, self and other. It is existentialism with a heart--a story for our times.
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