A vexing yet remarkable novel--in collage style--by limpid stylist Hogan: ostensibly the memoirs of Jeremy Hitchens, a young Anglo-Irish soldier on duty with British forces in Belfast in 1977, this is actually an elaborate and poetic reconstruction of Irish history and national genius. Jeremy has become obsessed by what he knows about Alan Mulvanny--a fragile novelist of the 1940s whom Jeremy's mother, Eileen Carmody, once had loved and ultimately lost. . . to Alan's gradual madness. And Jeremy finds parallels for his own difficult adolescence in the imagined models of Alan's purity and the stuff of his historical novel (unpublished)--a story of spiritual quest and agape within the bloody spasms of Irish history. But along with such idealistic models also come, as Jeremy eventually realizes, the shortcomings of Irish temperament and behavior: the psychological castration of Irish males, the dreaminess, the unreality. Like Hogan's other fiction (The Ikon Maker, The Leaves on Grey), this ever-shifting novel is frequently knotty, occasionally exasperating. Still, Hogan's stylistic felicities are abundant--there isn't a page without a strong flight of prose poetry. (""She had none of her mother's looks or her father's, her features were like porridge. Virginity was stored up in her as in a granary. There were few comments she could pass with her brother without feeling she was going over the top, so silence came and suddenly you looked out the window and saw snow."") Delicate, webby work, then--but acerbically strong, often compelling.