Most helpful critical review
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on 23 May 2015
If this book was available on Kindle it would have suited me me better. I have eyesight problems and 340 pages of small print is challenging. But it was a book group choice, with a time deadline, so I set myself a daily target and persevered.
I felt some affinity with the background. I lived in Ireland for a time; not long ago I discovered my mother's large and colourful Yorkshire family; my own family is a medical one; and I live near where the author's parents came from. So the book might have worked for me.
I'm not sure it did, but I can see why it was successful: a family history; lots of medical bits; some religion; the War; and Irishness. But you're spared the platitudinous "Cloggie (northern English) meets Paddy" theme: both the author's parents came from prosperous business families. I took the point that whilst today being of Irish origin is rather chic, but that was not always so, and I noted the author's point that "by definition being Irish meant that the O'Sheas must be poor". You also get some telling points on a mixed marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant agnostic and accompanying prejudices, though these do not seem to have harmed the marriage.
But the problem with this book is that it is too wordy. It's not without a bit of humour, but the author lacks the light touch of McCarthy's Bar. I was not surprised to find that the author was Professor of Writing at Goldsmiths College. A veritable wordsmith. Indeed, the book is so lengthy, so full of prose that I was surprised that it was not at least on the long list for the Booker Prize. Perhaps it was.