I am some way into Sebastian Barry’s 2005, A Long Long Way.  The language is so inventive and surprising that anyone who writes will despair. It never gets in the way of, and in fact adds to, the experience of the war — for his characters, and for us, the readers.  I’ll have more to say when I finish but just now I have to shout out something. Excellent!  More books like this and we’d think a lot longer before heading pell-mell into a conflict someone has assured us is a “Great Idea!”


This is the main character, Willie Dunne, who has felt close kinship to one Jesse Kirwan and has just heard a horrific story of rape by an O’Hara, a  soldier in his company.

“There had been hundreds, thousands of the people from all the ravaged districts killed no doubt, women like that woman, and old men and their women, and the children of Belgium, all swallowed up by the mouth of the war.  And if O’Hara and his pals did that at the start of the war, what would he be able to do now? What would Willie be capable of himself?  Were they not mirrors of each other, mirror after mirror, in bed after bed, in billet after billet, in battalion after battalion, in regiment after regiment, in division after division, all across this ruined place?  What of such hearts and souls? Could the soul hold good, could the heart? Was O’Hara a child thrown among blood and broken souls?  Was O’Hara his brother too, if Jesse Kirwan was? Was the family of mankind in all of itself the enemy? Was there no friendly army left upon the unkind earth?”

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