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Bestselling novelist Andrew M. Greeley outdoes his previous triumphs with Irish Gold, a contemporary, fresh and exciting novel of suspense and love. Nuala Anne McGrail, a student at Dublin's Trinity College, is beautiful the way a Celtic goddess is beautiful - not that Dermot Michael Coyne of Chicago has ever seen one of those in his twenty-five years - unless you count his grandmother Nell, who left Ireland during the Troubles with her husband Liam O'Riada, and who would never tell why they left. Somebody else ...
Bestselling novelist Andrew M. Greeley outdoes his previous triumphs with Irish Gold, a contemporary, fresh and exciting novel of suspense and love. Nuala Anne McGrail, a student at Dublin's Trinity College, is beautiful the way a Celtic goddess is beautiful - not that Dermot Michael Coyne of Chicago has ever seen one of those in his twenty-five years - unless you count his grandmother Nell, who left Ireland during the Troubles with her husband Liam O'Riada, and who would never tell why they left. Somebody else remembers, though - or why is Dermot set upon by thugs?
A thrilling tale of love and danger, set against the Irish troubles of the past and present from the New York Times bestselling master of suspense. "Irish Gold revolves around a hidden fortune in gold and the real-life, still-unsolved, question of who killed Free Irish leader Michael Collins in 1922."--Publishers Weekly.
"Nobody has ever left the church because of an Andrew Greeley novel, but many have been attracted back to it by him." —Reverend Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I.
"Michael Collins is now recognized as the lost leader of the 20th century. If he had lived, it is probable that Collins could have ended the Irish troubles. He had the vision and leadership skills to stop the killing and bring all parties to the negotiating table. Drawing from the letters of Collins, Greeley portrays the Irish leader as romantic, sensitive and introspective. Greeley's Collins is also tough." —Chicago Sun-Times on Irish Gold
"A tale of young love and faith with a cast of characters, Irish and American, that very well may open Greeley's work to a generation of new readers." —Chicago Tribune on Irish Gold
"A first-rate adventure story." —Baltimore Sun on Irish Gold
–– 1 ––
“THE IRISH,” I insisted to the black-haired young woman whose face might have belonged to a pre-Christian Celtic goddess, “are different. They look like some of the rest of us and they speak a language that’s remotely like ours. Many of them even have the same names as we do. But they’re different—almost like aliens from another planet.”
I’ve never met a pre-Christian Celtic goddess, but the girl looked like the images I formed in my head when I read the ancient sagas.
“Pissantgobshite.” She peered at me over her dark glass of Guinness, mildly offended but intrigued.
Not very goddesslike language, huh?
I had sworn off women, for excellent reasons I thought. But, as my brother George the priest had insisted, the hormones tend to be irresistible.
“Womanly charms,” George had observed, “are not of enormous moment compared to intelligence and personality. However, especially for the tumescent young male, they must be reckoned as not completely trivial.”
That’s the way George talks.
I avoided the distraction of telling my Irish goddess that the words of her scatological response ran together like a phrase in the writings of her man Jimmy Joyce. I was homesick, baffled, and a little frightened. My body ached in a hundred places from the brawl on Baggot Street the day before. I was worried that Pa, my beloved grandfather, might have been a terrorist and a murderer when he was a young man. I wanted some sympathy.
Young womanly sympathy.
“That’s an example of what I mean.” I leaned forward so she could hear me over the noise of the student-filled pub—O’Neill’s, on Suffolk Street across from St. Andrew’s Church (C. of I., which means Anglican). “What did you say your name is?”
“I didn’t.” She frowned, a warning signal that I had interrupted her pursuit of world economics and that, if I didn’t mind me manners, she would stalk away from the table.
“Mine’s Dermot,” I said brightly. “Dermot Coyne, Dermot Michael Coyne—son of the dark stranger, as you probably know.”
The child—she was twenty at the most—was strikingly beautiful. At least her cream-white face and breast-length black hair promised great beauty. The rest of her was encased in a gray sweatshirt with “Dublin Millennium” in dark blue letters, jeans, and a dark blue cloth jacket with a hood—not goddess clothes, exactly. Her face, slender and fine-boned, was the sort that stares at you from the covers of women’s magazines—except that the cover women don’t usually have a haunting hint in their deep blue eyes of bogs and druids and old Irish poetry. The bottom half of her face was a sweeping, elegant curve which almost demanded that male fingers caress it with reassurance and affection. However, the center of the curve was a solid chin that warned trespassing, or potentially trespassing, male fingers that they had better not offend this young woman or they would be in deep trouble.
I’m a romantic, you say?
Why else would I loiter in O’Neill’s pub around the corner from Trinity College with nothing to do except look for beautiful faces, the kind whose image will cling to your memory for the rest of your life?
The mists swirling outside the darkened pub, which smelled like Guinness’s brewery on a humid day, seemed to have slipped inside and soaked the walls and floors and tables and the coats of the noisy young people with permanent moisture. My friend across the table was an oasis of light and warmth in a desert of wet and gloomy darkness. Blue-eyed, druid maiden light.
All right, I’m a terrible romantic. I’m worse than that, as you will see when I have finished telling my story. I’m a dumb romantic.
“That established my point.” I continued the argument, unable to look away from her suspicious but radiant blue eyes. “Do you speak Irish?”
“Better than you speak English,” she snapped. “And I’m trying to study”—she gestured with a slim elegant hand—“for my focking world economics quiz, which is why no one is sitting with me at this table.”
“Ah, but someone is indeed: one Dermot Coyne. Now tell me, nameless one”—I smiled my most charming dimpled smile—“what obscene and scatological words exist in your language?”
She tilted her head back and her chin up, ready for a fight. “ ’Tis a pure and gentle language.”
“Ah, ’tis all of that.” I leaned closer so that her inviting lips were only a foot from mine—and felt the pain in my ribs from last night’s brawl. “I’m surprised that you didn’t say it was a focking pure language.”
Did I detect a hint of a smile? What would she look like if she took off her jacket?
As George would say, a not completely trivial issue.
“Now,” I continued reasonably, “let me tell you about an event I observed when I was doing research on this alien race that claims some relation to my own harmless Irish-American people. In pursuit of this project I am attending a cultural exercise in an artistic center with which, O lovely nameless one, I am sure you are familiar—Croke Park.”
The ends of her lips turned up a little more. I was a big Yank, probably rich like all Yanks, probably preparing to make a pass like all rich Yank males, but I was also ever so faintly amusing. My heart, which ought to have known better after my earlier failures in love, picked up its beat.
I must add for the record that I was not preparing to make a pass. I had enough troubles in life as it was without becoming involved with a woman. All I wanted at that point was a little maternal sympathy because of my recent and unfortunate encounters with the Special Branch, a euphemism for the local secret police. Nonetheless, at twenty-five an unattached male of our species will inevitably evaluate a young woman of the same species as a potential bed partner and perhaps even as a remote possibility for a mate—even if my mother is convinced that I am destined to be a typical Irish bachelor. Such an evaluation will be all the more intense if the young woman across the table from him in a smoke-filled Dublin pub possesses the most beautiful face he has ever seen, a face all the more wonderful because of its total innocence of makeup.
“Maybe you’ll find a sweet little girl in Ireland and bring her home,” Mom had said brightly during our last phone conversation.
“Like your mother?”
Mom laughed. “Well, she was little anyway.”
I was beginning to fall in love, you say? Ah, friend, I begin to fall in love almost every day and, having been badly burned twice, rarely get beyond the beginning. When I begin to fall in love, the issue is infatuation and flirtation, not the kind of love out of which permanent union might be fashioned. I’d known that kind of love too, and I didn’t want any of it now, thank you very much.
This lass from the bogs was more appealing than most of the women who stir my heart, you say? And I had actually talked to her, which is a rare event when I begin to fall in love?
The nameless one had already forced me to reevaluate my contention that all the beautiful female genes had migrated to America.
“You went to the All Ireland match at Croke Park, did you?” She tapped her notebook impatiently with a Bic pen. I didn’t have much time to tell my story or her royal majesty would dismiss me to the nether regions of her empire.
Most Irish conversational dialogue, I had discovered, ends in question marks. I tried to adjust to the custom, with only modest success.
I will not try to write English the way the Irish speak it in this story. For that I strongly recommend the books of Roddy Doyle. Thus when you see the letters “th,” you must realize that their language has (sometimes) no sound to correspond to those consonants. Moreover, the vowel “u” is often pronounced as if it were “oo,” as in “Dooblin.” For example, if the Gaelic womanly deity to whom I was talking should say “The only thing to do is to tell the truth when you’re thinking about it,” you must imagine her as sounding as if she said, “De only ting to do is tell da troot when you’re tinking about it.”
“Didn’t I now?” I continued my tale of Croke Park. “And didn’t Cork beat Mayo? And wasn’t I sitting next to a nice old Mayo lady who prayed her rosary beads before the game, uh, match began? And didn’t she put away her beads and shout encouragement to the players? I now recite a typical expression which I had the foresight to jot down in my notebook.” I removed a spiral pad from my Savile Row jacket pocket. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Slattery, for the love of God, will you get the load of shit out of your focking pants and kick the focking ball into the focking net, instead of standing there like a pissant amadon!”
I snapped the notebook shut, my case having been made. The nameless one laughed, a rich, generous, and devastating laugh. She probably had no idea how beautiful she was or that she was even beautiful—an innocent child from the bogs.
Time would prove that the first part of my estimate was accurate enough. The second remains even now problematic.
“At least for an alien race,” she conceded, “aren’t we colorful now?”
“About that, lovely nameless one, you will get no argument from me.”
“A song, Nuala,” some large oaf with a thick Cork accent demanded. “ ’Tis time for one of your songs!”
“Can’t you see I’m studying me world economics?” my companion protested with a notable lack of sincerity.
“You’re not studying,” a woman shouted, “you’re chatting up the fockingrichyank. Sing us a song.”
“A song from Nuala,” a chorus joined in, emphasizing their demand by pounding their mugs on the shabby and unsteady tables.
“Holy Saint Brigid.” Nuala—for that must be her named—sighed loudly.
She winked at me, stood up, doffed her jacket, and stretched for a guitar under our table.
In this exercise her torso came enchantingly close to my face. It exceeded my wildest, or should I say my most obscene, expectations.
A matter of trivial importance for a young male, no doubt, but nonetheless, she was so elegantly lovely that a spasm of pleasure and pain raced through my nervous system and caused me to bite my lip.
Yet I almost stopped ogling when she began to sing—in Irish. It was surely a love song and just as surely, being Irish, a sad love song. Nuala’s voice was sweet and precise, yet powerful. She filled the pub with her song and reduced the noise of her fellow students to a whisper—though the steady traffic back and forth to the bar was not terminated. Just the same, they walked softly.
As I say, I did not suspend my astonishment at her wondrous breasts. Presumably no male in the pub did. The gentle, melancholy song made my astonishment all the more pleasant and poignant and frightening.
She glanced at me a couple of times while she was singing, nervously I thought.
Ah, if I brought this one home to Mother, there would be universal rejoicing in the family.
The rest of the kids in the pub cheered enthusiastically. I was so dazzled that I forgot to applaud. She noted my failure and favored me with a dirty look.
Ah, you don’t mess with this one, not at all, at all.
They demanded another song. Feigning reluctance, which was calculated to fool no one, she sang a lullaby that made me want to be a baby again. I noticed that her mug of Guinness, like mine, was nearly empty and tiptoed over to the bar to refill them both. I felt two scorching blue eyes burn holes in my back.
Uh-oh. I think I made a mistake.
I made it back to the table just as the lullaby ended. Her eyes avoided mine. I was afraid she wouldn’t come back to our table.
“Good luck with the play, Nuala,” someone shouted.
“You’ll be great,” someone else chimed in.
She stood at the table, towering, it seemed, above me.
“Play?” I said cautiously.
“TCD Players.” She scowled at me, ready to pick up her economics notes and storm out of the pub. “Playboy—and that’s not a magazine with naked women either.”
“And you’ll be playing herself?”
“Pegeen Mike. Who else?”
“ ‘Ah,’ ” I began, “ ‘six yards of stuff for to make a yellow gown. A pair of lace boots with lengthy heels on them and brassy eyelets. A hat is suited for a wedding day. A fine-tooth comb. To be sent with three barrels of porter in Jimmy Farrell’s creel cart on the evening of the coming fair to Mr. Michael James Flaherty. Best compliments of this season. Margaret Flaherty.’ ”
Nuala listened carefully to my recitation of the opening lines of The Playboy. “You do it better than I do,” she admitted as she put her guitar back beneath the table with the same delightful passage of her torso by my face. “Sure, a male Pegeen in drag, that would create a scandal, wouldn’t it now? Something that Nial Jordan would think up.”
“Beautiful songs, Nuala.”
“Och, the first one is an eejit. Lamenting an amadon that walked out on her.”
The word “eejit” would normally be translated as “idiot” in American English, but something of the affectionate nature of the reproach is lost. I also note that for reasons of delicacy, I tend to omit in this story further use of the colorful language with which Nuala began our relationship, though I am firmly convinced that, word-drunk people that they are, the Irish are more skillful at obscenity and scatology than anyone else in the world. Again, if you want the full details, consult Roddy Doyle. Nuala was much more restrained than the citizens of “Barrytown” as portrayed in The Commitments or The Snapper, for example.
“There are,” I said, cautiously moving the replenished pint in her direction, “three themes in Irish song—lament for a lost love, farewell to Ireland, and poor old Ireland.”
“I don’t want your focking jar.” She pushed it away angrily.
“Nuala . . . short for Fionnuala, right? . . . I’m not trying to seduce you. Not that it wouldn’t be a most interesting and rewarding exercise, but it’s not, as we richyanks would say, where I’m at now. I’d like to be friends, if you don’t mind.”
She reached tentatively for the jar. “Would you be gay now?”
“Woman, if you knew the thoughts that were dancing in my head while you were singing, you wouldn’t be asking that.”
“Nothing wrong with being gay.” She flushed a light pink and turned her eyes away from mine.
I noted another difference between her face and that of a model on a magazine cover. The model’s face is impassive, content with its own immobile beauty. Nuala’s face was in constant motion, disclosing a rushing torrent of emotions—anger, interest, shyness, amusement. Either she was too unsophisticated to hide her emotions or she didn’t give a damn about hiding them. Later, much later, I would understand that, like the good actress she was, Nuala could manufacture emotions at will—and then convince herself that she really felt them.
“Nuala, it is then?”
“ ’Tis.” She did not look from her Guinness, which she moved back and forth uneasily on the pockmarked table.
“And the name that goes with it?”
She hesitated, not sure she wanted to cross that boundary. “McGrail,” she finally admitted, not at all sure she wasn’t making a big mistake.
“That’s better. Now that we’re friends you can drink that jar, can’t you?”
She looked up at me and grinned. “Sure, wasn’t I perishing from the thirst after singing?”
I tried to place her accent. It wasn’t like any of those I had learned to identify since I’d been in Ireland, yet somehow it was familiar, soft, light, sweet, and ever so faintly ironic.
“So you’re studying music and drama, Fionnuala McGrail?”
“I am not,” she said hotly. “Would I want to starve to death, and there being enough unemployed in this country as it is? Wouldn’t I be a terrible eejit altogether if I wasn’t doing accounting?”
I wasn’t sure that her voice was good enough to be commercial. Probably not. Everyone in Ireland could sing ballads.
“Your voice is as lovely as you are, Nuala.”
“Hasn’t the man swallowed the blarney stone instead of kissing it?”
“I didn’t mean to make you angry.”
“Sure, Dermot Coyne, aren’t you the terrible eejit not to realize that I like your flattery and that it scares me, and yourself”—she flushed again—“a big amadon of a fockingrichyank.”
So, basically I attracted her and I scared her. Progress, too much progress altogether. For all her beauty and talent, she was only a teenager from . . . from where?
“And so how would you be earning the money to pay for your expensive London clothes?”
My heart sank. My answer to that question persuaded most young women that I was a total flake.
“I didn’t know this was a student pub, or I wouldn’t have come in with this suit,” I said. “I didn’t want to look like a fockingrichyank.”
“Would I mind how you’re dressed?”
Probably not, Nuala McGrail. But you’ll probably mind how I get my money.
Moreover, even if you don’t mind, I can’t burden you with my story about the Irish secret police. You’re too young and too innocent and I may just love you too much.
Posted May 9, 2012
Posted March 17, 2013
I really loved this book. It was the book I read of his. It was full of love, suspense, and mystery. I couldnot put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2010
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