A Kafkaesque study of an amoral weakling consumed by an unrestrained bureaucracy.


Debut novelist Hughes imagines the circumstances leading up to the Victorian-era real-life hanging of John Delahunt, a convicted Irish child-murderer.

Trinity College education near complete, Delahunt anticipated launching himself into 1840s Dublin society as a gentleman. Then his father died. Delahunt soon learned the estate was mortgaged to pay for his father’s care. That was an inopportune time to meet Thomas Sibthorpe, who works for the shadowy "Department" at the Castle, headquarters of Dublin’s police. Transpiring thereafter is an intense character study, one in which Delahunt’s life becomes Hobbesian—nasty, brutish, and short. He accepts money from Sibthorpe to give false testimony about a street fight in which a constable was injured. Delahunt sees an opportunity for more easy money, necessary because he’s wooing Helen, a young woman of substance. Delahunt approaches her father for permission to marry. It’s granted, then rescinded once the father discovers Delahunt’s proclivities. The couple elopes. Helen is rejected by her family. The pair lands in a decrepit apartment. Delahunt later witnesses an assault, but there’s more money in witnessing murder. Delahunt, psychopathic and greedy, kills the wounded man. His testimony leads to an innocent being hanged. Helen’s the more ambiguous character. Although ignorant of the murder, she acquiesced to perjury for money. Then she descends into laudanum addiction following a botched abortion, and the marriage collapses, as does Delahunt. There’s much that is cringe-inducing as these less-than-admirable characters skulk through the cold, rain-drenched streets of Victorian Dublin. "Lyster had begun to use my fork to clean the grime from beneath his fingernails," Delahunt notes when a Sibthorpe cohort visits his apartment, a fitting observation of character in this tragedy, which is morbid reading on every page. 

A Kafkaesque study of an amoral weakling consumed by an unrestrained bureaucracy.

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-794-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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