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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Comedy of middle-class manners: early 1990s Dublin30 May 2006
John L Murphy
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Circling loosely around sightings of a glowing figure of Mary who appears on walls inside homes and even on a Mercedes hood, this ambitious comedy of manners takes place in early 90s Dublin. Like nearly any novel it seems from the late 20c taking place in Ireland, corrupt clergy, eloquent alcoholics, hidden explosives, smuggled guns, blustering cuckolds, IRA men, sinister phone voices, anonymous letters in the mail, and sexually randy women collide and carom about. Breasted carries on many subplots involving characters such as a newspaper columnist, a rich builder, a Secret Service man from the U.S. sent along with the Irish American v.p. on a visit, feminist agitators, an elderly Protestant lady, and yet another intellectual writer. So many figures crowd the canvas she paints that after a while there seems to be no main protagonist, although the novel started with one--who turns out not to be all that convincing as a ladies' man able to charm any woman instantly according to Breasted's depiction. The author has an eye for humorous detail and conversational tics, but the book moves unevenly and fitfully.
I cannot say that all of these figures need to be added to the mix, for they do thicken the plot considerably--perhaps more than can be easily digested. For example, there's a plot complication out of left field late in the novel involving a character's sudden wish to convert to Judaism that has not been prepared for earlier, which while promising, fizzles out after a moment of clever comparisons between the Jewish and Catholic conceptions of the Deity. An apropos allusion to Flann O'Brien very late in the story again could have opened up intriguing subtexts that the novel could have been enriched by, but as it is such witty references pop up and subside without much fanfare.
One key character suddenly finds that his ex-wife sent back his six long-estranged children to live with him late in the book, but nothing's done with this scenario to advance the plot. There's a McGuffin quality about the ending that leaves all the energy of the book pent-up but deflating into a very hackneyed climactic scene. Still, with for me the most intriguing individual being none other than an Italian papal nuncio sent from Rome, riven by doubts about his faith in a touching and only slightly exaggerated manner, this novel has its moments.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book deserves a review...21 April 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a highly entertaining book. It is funny, light-hearted story that takes place in Ireland. The Virgin Mary is sighted by an odd assortment of folks who interpret what they see and what it means according to their nature with comic results.