A Long Long Way

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Overview

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 violence on a scale 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 ...
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A Long Long Way

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Overview

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 violence on a scale 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 that he must rejoin his regiment and fight until the end. Sebastian Barry renders Willie's personal struggle as well as the overwhelming consequences of war.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Barry's prequel to the fine Annie Dunne (2002) turns to WWI for the story of a young Dublin soldier who loses love, crown, country, and family in the war-torn desolation. Willie Dunne is the older brother of Annie (she was born in 1900), and all might have been very different for them indeed had Willie only grown tall enough to have entered the metropolitan police force. His own stern and principled father was himself Dublin's chief superintendent of police, looking very much the part from his towering height of six-foot-six, an entire foot above small Willie, only son among four siblings in this motherless family. Since six feet was required for entering the force, Willie was impelled in other directions-and there did happen to be the war ("if he could not be a policeman, he could be a soldier"). And so he ships out for Belgium, leaving behind his beloved Gretta, whom he'd met when she was only 13 (and he 17). Barry is authentic and unflinching as a novelist of the war, neither sparing nor overdramatizing anything as Willie goes under fire, sees death all around him, undergoes his first gas attack, even visits a brothel-an incident, indirectly, that will bring about his loss of Gretta. But politics is what really traps Willie. At the end of a home leave, he and other troops are employed in putting down the Irish nationalists' Easter 1916 uprising, and, when he sees the nationalists simply shot down, Willie's own sense of identity with them is awakened. A letter home carries a hint of this feeling, and on Willie's next leave, his father-conservative, royalist, servant of three monarchs-bans him from his home. Back on the front, Willie no longer has Gretta, is despised by the Irishnationalists for serving England, by the loyalists for sympathizing with the nationalists, and by the English for being Irish. Willie's end will be alone-and utterly, utterly pointless. Flawless, honest, humane, moving. Agent: Derek Johns/AP Watt
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670033805
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 2/3/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His plays include Boss Grady's Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), and Dallas Sweetman (2008). Among his novels are The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002) and A Long Long Way (2005), the latter shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His poetry includes The Water-Colourist (1982), Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989) and The Pinkening Boy (2005). His awards include the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, and Costa Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year. He lives in Wicklow with his wife Ali, and three children, Merlin, Coral, and Tobias.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    .

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2010

    Caught in Conflicting Loyalties in World War I

    Sebastian Barry's novel is a stunner; a short war novel with a big impact. Barry carefully avoids war fiction cliches in his story of Willie Dunne, a policeman's son who enlists in the British Army partly out of patriotism and partly out of an attempt to impress his policeman father. The reader sees the horrors of war through the eyes of Everyman Willie, whose youthful naiveté is changed forever over the course of WWI. Irish soldiers found themselves caught in the middle of Ireland's own internal conflicts in WWI, as Home Rule activists used Ireland's preoccupation with the War as an opportunity for the 1916 Easter Rising. Barry does a fine job of showing how soldiers like Dunne were embittered by the lack of support on the home front as well as the suspicions of their British allies. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully written historical drama

    It is no wonder that this novel was nominated for the Mann Booker award, the most prestigious literary award in the British Commonwealth. But Irish Americans and readers interested in the role of the Irish and colonial troops in World War I will also appreciate the historical details embedded in this story. The point of view is that of a very young Irish boy who enlists in order to do something that might make his father proud or help him earn enough to marry the girl he loves. For many Irish, remembrance of World War I is overshadowed by the events of the Easter uprising in Dublin in 1916. This novel juxtaposes these two events with heartbreaking clarity. The fate of this young man foreshadows the sacrifices and the "terrible beauty" that has shaped Ireland for most of the twentieth century.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Irish in World War One.

    The Irish in World War One., April 17, 2009


    Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His play 'The Steward Of Christendom', first produced in 1995, won many awards and has been seen around the world. He's the author of two highly acclaimed novels,'The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty' (1998) and 'Annie Dunne' (2002). His most recent play, 'Whistling Psyche', had its first performance at The Almeida, London, in 2004.

    Barely eighteen years old, Willie Dunne leaves Dublin in 1914 to fight for the Allied cause, largely unaware of the growing political and religious tensions back home.

    Told in Sebastian Barry's characteristically beautiful prose, 'A Long Way' evokes the camaraderie and humor of Willy and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, but also the cruelty and sadness of war, and the divided loyalties that many Irish soldiers felt. Tracing their experiences through the course of the war, the narrative brilliantly explores and dramatizes the events of the Easter Rising within Ireland, and how such a seminal political moment came to affect those boys off fighting for the King of England on foreign fields - the paralyzing doubts and divisions it caused them.

    It also describes Willie's coming of age, his leaving behind of his sweetheart Gretta, and the effect the war has on his relationships with his family and his friends. The most remarkable person in the novel is the father of Willie. He cannot forgive his son to fight alongside the British.

    Running throughout is the question of how such young men came to be fighting in a war, and how they struggled with the events that raged around them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008

    Only the geography changes

    Willie Dunne's hell was the trenches of Belgium in World War II. Mine was the jungles of Vietnam. While reading Willie's story of how Willie's best efforts became his worst nightmare, I found great parallels to the experience of Vietnam vets who returned to a country at best apathetic to their suffering and service and at worst, hostile to their sacrifice. This is a must read for this time in our history when so many will be returning from so long a time in the maw of war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2006

    Amazingly Beautiful read

    Barry beautifully describes the time and lives of Irish soldiers that fought in WWI who were overshadowed by the men that fought for Irish freedom. Poignant and yet so powerful. Anybody that reads this book couldn't have a dry eye by the final pages.

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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    Posted March 14, 2010

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    Posted October 26, 2009

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    Posted March 6, 2011

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    Posted July 26, 2011

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