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4.2 out of 5 stars52
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 10 August 1999
What an utterly engrossing read. The tale of Eneas McNulty's early years in turn of the century Sligo establishes an ordinary background against which his extraordinary adulthood is both shocking and absorbing. His days as a soldier in both world wars, a seafarer, policeman and occasional unwelcome returnee to his hometown is captivating enough as a story, but it is Barry's unusual use of language that often had me reading sentences several times over, in awe. Do not mistake this with any sentimental clap-trap about poverty stricken Ireland you may have read before. Sebastian Barry is the real thing.
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on 1 January 2000
Quite simply, a beautiful piece of writing. Barry exploits language and emotions to produce a novel which really forced me to examine all my beliefs and thoughts on life. The lonely character of Eneas could be any one of us!
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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2008
Set in familiar Sebastian Barry territory, this book explores the impact that the creation of an independent Ireland had on ordinary people who had the misfortune to find themselves on the "wrong" side.

Eneas McNulty is one of the many workless young men hanging around Sligo as peace returns to Europe following the First World War. It's a peace that doesn't extend to Ireland. In a decision that is little more than a whim, Eneas takes the only job he can find and joins the "peelers" (the Royal Irish Constabulary). Within a few months his name is on a death list and he is forced to leave his job, his family and his country.

The book tells Eneas' story from early childhood to old age. It's essentially about a man forced by fate to wander the Earth like some tragic Greek hero roaming the seas and battling with monsters. The wandering is real enough and there are plenty of man-made monsters to be confronted along the way: but Eneas' real tragedy is that he isn't a hero - he's just an ordinary bloke who wants to go home.

Barry's writing is, as always, of the highest order. The novel is, in many ways, a companion piece to A Long Long Way. Both novels changed my perception of Ireland and her people; both novels left me in tears (of anger, rather than sentiment). I've given this 4 stars, simply because A Long Long Way is the better novel and I wanted to make that distinction. Nevertheless, another first rate offering from Barry.
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on 31 January 2009
The end of the this book has the feel of an elegy for all of humankind. Up to then it charts Eneas McNulty's lucky and unlucky journey through life. The humour and pathos vye for space on the page and the writing is vivid and thrilling. Even the fleeting characters are drawn with care. IN the end, it was hard not to cry at the sheer poetry and grace of Eneas's last act. Unforgettable.
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on 11 June 2010
Sebastian Barry is one of the greatest living Irish Writers today. The reasons for this is both his sensitivity and insight but also his ability to write in spoken Irish so as to convey both the feelings and information his characters wish to give. This book is a novel of homelessness and rootlessness bestowed on Eneas MacNulty because he did not conform to the demands of the Irish republicans in Sligo due to poverty. Seeking work and a meaningful life he joined the Constabulary and became a marked man. A death threat was issued which forced him to wander the world and instilled in him an intense nostalgia for Ireland and home. Eneas is the archetypal refugee never really committed to any of his jobs or places because all he wants to be is home. The author conveys to us as readers the passage of time which ages Eneas as each time he briefly returns others have grown older, friends and family and he realises that he will never have a family himself. He carries with him an extreme sadness and sense of drifting until he eventually accepts he can never again live in Sligo. Even so the death threat follows and haunts him. Barry has written a novel which portrays the irish refugee, as a stranger in a strange land. Much of that quality is in each and every irish man and woman who has had to leave ireland for work. Though they make their lives in another country whether England or America thoughts are always focussing on 'Home'. it is a blessed and gifted ability to be able to convey in words that sense of displacement and the accompanying nostalgia and melancholy which only the refugee knows. Marlene Packwood
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on 24 October 2011
This was my third Sebastian Barry novel - I read A Long Long Way and was instantly transfixed - so I am already a fan.

But this book is quite simply the best novel I have read since leaving university in 1982.
It is utterly bewitching in its unique, lyrical style. The elegance and poetry of the prose leave you captivated, moved, enthralled.
The central character Eneas is you and me - everyman. The charting of his life leaves you railing against the world on his behalf - the tragedy, the inevitable incursion of others and their bullying, petty squabbling, the dangers and terrors of men invested with too much dogma and not enough intellect to cope with it.
And then the longing for the streets and country around his home; the all too brief encounters with family and friends across the years; unfulfilled love - Eneas'frailty, his longing for the simple pleasure of being at home, are both heart-warming and full of anguish.

Barry is a genius - a phrase all too readily bandied about but how else can you describe him and do this book justice? In a literary world where his fellow countrymen Banville and Toibin are giants, to my mind Barry stands head and shoulders above them all.
And in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty he has created his finest novel to date.
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on 10 June 2010
I had already read Barry's novel 'The Secret Scripture' and the references to the character Eneas McNulty intrigued me. I have enjoyed reading ' The Whereabouts of Eneas Mc Nulty' too but thought that, in general, and especially the style of writing had improved in his most recent book. Reading the two novels out of sequence didn't detract from my enjoyment of both books. If you are looking for an absorbing story I recommend these two books.
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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2012
Pick up any novel by Sebastian Barry and you are going to be dazzled by his prose; it might be termed epic, for its bold rich sonorous style. It's prose infused with the lilt of voice, the "moil and tumbrel" of waves and the history of a nation. It's prose that will explain the havoc wreaked by a bullet hitting a man at point blank range, an aeroplane, or a dance-hall on Saturday night. But I don't think Barry is a master of the concrete; instead, it is in exploring the nebulous reality of the human condition--heart and soul--that he excels.

Eneas McNulty, Sligoman, "must be wandering as a displaced man ... never coming back ... never seeing [Sligo's] gold and bloodied suns again". This is his fate, decided by politics and the "hidden men of Ireland" who "brew a war ... for the old prize of freedom for Ireland." There is, as Eneas discovers, "nothing more current than hatred", and it will take every scrap of human spirit and courage he can muster to fight it. He will find himself in England; and a fisherman in the "immaculate waste world of ice and sea and herring"; and on the beaches of Dunkirk where soldiers are "like children killed at the hems of their mother's skirts"; and digging in Africa; and then on the move again thanks to the plans "other people have made for him." Wherever he goes, Sligo, his home, remains in his heart, clear and hard as a diamond. He feels "something akin to love" for this place where "the hatred his countrymen have for him is a ... signpost".

It is not for an account of the history of Ireland, or the Second World War, or Nigeria that you should read this book; you will not find them here. Within these pages, Barry is concerned with the "flotsam" of one man whose life and wanderings are shaped by the "storms" of politics and history. Eneas is such a guileless human figure that our sympathy for him, this bundle of emotion and weaknesses who somehow manages to make his way, with fear and loneliness his constant companions, through the decades of his existence, is total. More than anything, we want him to survive.
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on 13 August 2011
I actually preferred this one to 'The Secret Scriptures'. The style is more poetic and the dialogue much more interesting but it's worth reading both (though not necessary) as they feed into each other so well.
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on 23 August 2010
This is the second Sebastian Barry book I have read whcih was out of sinc with the first one. I enjoyed this book, I was able to link the two books together in my mind and I enjoyed forming in my own head the relationship between Eneas and the other charcters in the story.
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