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The Temporary Gentleman Hardcover – 3 Apr 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571276954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571276950
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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) and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007). His novels include The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002), A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008). He has won, among other awards, the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize. A Long Long Way, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin International Impac Prize, was the Dublin: One City One Book choice for 2007. The Secret Scripture won the Costa Book of the Year Award, the Irish Book Awards for Best Novel and the Independent Booksellers Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, Christopher Ewart-Biggs award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

Product Description


Barry is an artist of the highest order. (Claire Kilroy Guardian, Book of the Week)

'Both fascinating and moving, The Temporary Gentleman shows Sebastian Barry to be one of our finest novelists - daring, accommodating and humane.' (John Banville)

Told in Barry's flawless prose, it's a book that leaves the reader bruised long after the final page has been, regretfully, turned. (John Harding Daily Mail)

Engrossing ... memorable ... a notable addition to Barry's ongoing chronicle of lives hitherto untold. (John Boland Irish Independent)

Few contemporary novelists are better equipped to unravel a long and complex life with insight and compassion. (Max Davidson Mail on Sunday)

The story sings with strong-pulsed poetry. (Sheena Joughin Sunday Telegraph)

Arguably our greatest living novelist. (Irish Times)

'These lives are re-imagined in language of surpassing beauty.' (New York Times)

'He writes like an angel.' (James Naughtie Sunday Telegraph)

'Barry's greatness isn't just that he's a fine writer and a deeply political writer. His greatness is he does it all simultaneously: he tells a desolating story and demolishes many myths at the same time. Ireland's lucky to have him.' (Carlo Gebler Financial Times)

'A magnificent and heart-rending novel.' (Joseph O'Connor Guardian on The Secret Scripture)

'A bravura performance. Reflecting on Irish history, Irish losses, Irish enmities with singular force, grace and beauty.' (Roy Foster The Times on The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty)

Book Description

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry is a stunning return from the prize-winning and best-selling author of The Secret Scripture.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Pigwin on 10 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
Quite a lot may be gleaned from the title of Sebastian Barry's latest novel i.e. The Temporary Gentleman as it is a pejorative term reserved for somebody who may be classed as a gentleman by virtue of rank for the duration of a war. The narrator of Barry's eighth novel is Jack McNulty, an Irishman from Sligo who enlisted as an engineer with the British during the second world war. While McNulty is somewhat proud of his stint with the British army he is aware that his compatriots would not share his sentiments.

The novel opens with a ship being torpedoed off the African coast during the Second World War; Jack is standing on the deck drinking from a bottle of Scotch.

We then come across McNulty in 1957 in Accra where he is writing his memoirs and being waited on by his "Man Friday" Tom Quaye. Jack's life has been marred by very heavy drinking. He met his future wife, Mai, in 1922 in Galway; she was a trainee teacher and he an engineering student. While Mai is portrayed as unique and beautiful and a dedicated supporter of Michael Collins, she is also fragile and she too turns to drink but in an even more self-destructive fashion than Jack whose own drinking came before his wife and young children. Later on in the book it emerges that before boarding the ship, which is subsequently torpodoed in the opening scenes of the book, Jack had been on leave and even though his wife in Sligo was very eager to see him, he chose to go to the races in Nottingham rather than see his family.

Through Jack's memoirs we follow Jack and Mai's lives as they unfold from the early days of their meeting. We see them travel to the Gold Coast only to return when Mai becomes pregnant with her first child.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Irish author Sebastian Barry has returned to the Sligo area of Ireland, in his new novel, "The Temporary Gentleman". Two of his previous novels - which I haven't read yet - are about the McNulty family. "The Temporary Gentleman" is about Jack McNulty and how his great love for both his wife Mai and for drink has helped to ruin her life and left him a wrecked soul living in Ghana.

Jack McNulty is one of the most interesting fictional characters I've come across in a while. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, his life has revolved around Mary (Mai) Kirwan, a physically beautiful but emotionally fragile young woman, who he woos, weds, and then helps destroy. I wondered that if you idolise someone, as Jack did Mai, does that make communicating with that person difficult? Does it make seeing her emotional weaknesses impossible? Do you not want to admit the person you love so dearly has so many flaws: Certainly Jack had very little idea of how fragile Mai was when they courted. Her odd actions on their wedding day would seem to be a precursor of troubled times ahead. Jack was certainly warned by his mother and Mai's closest friend that Mai was "delicate". But warning does not always translate into awareness by the person being warned...

Jack McNulty was able to come and go after they were married. After an early stay in west Africa with Jack, Mai returned to Ireland to give birth to their older daughter. Jack stayed in Africa and then served in the British army in several engineering jobs. He was in Sligo for long periods of time, however, and managed to lose Mai's family home through indebtedness. But was that all Jack's fault?
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Format: Kindle Edition
This 2014 novel has a very graphic, explosive beginning which exemplifies the quality of Sebastian Barry's writing. Sentences, up to a page long, create a mounting feeling of panic and terror that matches that of the narrator, Jack McNulty. He is the brother of Eneas McNulty, whose life is described in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, published sixteen years earlier.

Jack McNulty is an Irish engineer commissioned into the British Army in WWII and we meet him in 1957 in Accra after his work for the UN as an observer has come to an end following an ill-judged financial escapade. He is the `temporary gentleman' of the title because his war-time commission was never made permanent.

Reluctant to return to Ireland, he lives with his houseboy, Tom Quaye, writing a memoir, the heart of which describes his tumultuous relationship with Mai Kirwan whom he first meets at university in the 1920s and later marries in Sligo. When he first meets his prospective father-in-law, who refers to him as `the buveur of Sligo', the core weakness of Jack's character is already evident but the father cannot convince his daughter of this.

The story takes in North and East Africa and India as well as Ireland. McNulty drinks a lot and as their peripatetic marriage progresses [they spend time in the Gold Coast before she returns to Ireland to have a baby and he follows later], Mia begins to drink and ends up bettering her husband. Not that she lacks reasons, her family home in Sligo must be sold to pay off Jack's gambling debts and her ambition to become a novelist is gradually forgotten. Despite seeing his wife's increasing unhappiness and dependence on the bottle, Jack is unable or unwilling to come to her aid and can only alleviate his self-inflicted pain..
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