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Gebler (Edna O'Brien's son) makes a less than auspicious debut with this novel about a child's loss of innocence. As 31-year-old Paul Weismann journeys from his London home to Ireland (the country of his childhood), memories crowd in. The remembered events are narrated from the child Paul's point of view--in a style so terse and flat, and with characters so familiar, that the story fails to become engaging. After the death of Paul's mother, his tyrannical father sends him to live with his Irish grandparents, the O'Berne's, at the Red House, their ramshackle farm. Though he's spent holidays there, it's during his 11th summer that Paul penetrates the mysteries of their grown-up world, acquiring painful knowledge. When his doting ""granny"" sends him to the races with his alcoholic grandfather, she warns Paul ""to look after him."" O'Berne has entered his favorite horse in the race; she takes a bad fall and has to be shot. To Paul's horror, his ""heartbroken"" grandfather goes on a drinking binge. Granny is heartbroken too, for the money her husband used to bet had been borrowed from the bank to hire men for the harvesting. The arrival of Mr. Schmidt, the German land speculator, saves the day. Temporarily. But not all Paul's discoveries are grim; in one of the best-written episodes, he explores some pleasurable mysteries with his cousin, Philomena. Harvest season sends O'Berne on his last binge. He accidentally starts a fire, burning down the house around him. The unique flavor of Ireland and the Irish is strangely missing from this book. Despite his efforts, the conscientious author provides neither lyricism nor rueful humor--qualities that have distinguished so many others in this genre, and from this place.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Dutton