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Disturbing, engaging but incomplete
on 8 April 2012
At times a very dark and disturbing story. The characters in The Giant, O'Brien (apart from the Giant himself) exhibit a lot of the worst of human traits - opportunistic, cruel, desperate and treacherous. The depiction of 18th century London where life is cheap and the exploitation of "freaks" by unscrupulous characters is depressing. There are few redeeming features in the people we meet in this book. London is certainly a more enlightened place today. The Irish are, by and large, depicted as vicious, drunken and untrustworthy, although some context / explanation is provided for this by the descriptions of the abject poverty which the Giant and his band left behind in Ireland.
Nevertheless there is something engaging about this novel. There is a mysticism and lyricism to the stories and speech of the gentle Giant. The escapades of his little troop and they depart Ireland are at times comical and there is some humour throughout the book.
The sections on John Hunter are very well written but seem too separate and the two strands are never fully brought together.
Overall impressive in many ways but seems unfinished.