A rarely acknowledged fact of critical life is that the worse a book is, the cleverer the reviewer tends to seem. This is unfortunate in the case of Sebastian Barry’s new novel. The Temporary Gentleman is a tender, harrowing, lovely book.
Jack McNulty is an engineer, born in Sligo in 1902. Despite growing up in the most Irish of the provinces, Jack is an instinctive West Brit – an Irish person with Anglophile leanings as well as Irish ones – and he joins up to fight in the Second World War when it breaks out. The great event of his life, however, occurs when he meets Mai Kirwan, a Galway beauty, at university.