Don't be fooled by the descriptions of copywriters and others, who don't seem to have read this book with any attention. The society it portrays is actually a drab, dingy one: a world of neighbours constantly spying on each other and rejoicing in each others' misfortunes, where nothing ever happens and the only way to live your life with any freedom is to leave. The hero, both shifty and shiftless, selfish and sneaking, isn't especially likeable either. What redeems both the life and the character is Flynn's almost mystical love of nature - a thing he assumes his brutish neighbours not to share - and his putative talent as a poet.
The author himself, with a disarming lack of modesty, called it 'not only the best but the only authentic account of life as it was lived in Ireland this century'. He was probably proud when the Irish Republic banned it for a while.
In short, this has more in common with the British 'kitchen sink' novels of the 50s than the Darling Buds of May. With its sly, slightly absurdist tone, keeping emotion at arm's length, the book it reminds me of most is Billy Liar. Only at the end is there any real depth of feeling - but I suppose I shouldn't give that away.
Not one of the world's great works of literature but at least, for a change, a book worth reading to the end without feeling you have squandered hours you'll never get back. Thank God for that!