Critic and first-novelist Sansom (The Truth About Babies, not reviewed) takes a wry look at an Irish village and discovers an exceptionally lively world.
Despite all the articles about the hip new Dublin scene, the Irish are still a fundamentally rustic people, more at home in the villages and crossroads they’ve come from for centuries than in the cities and suburbs that they’ve gravitated toward of late. Ask Davey Quinn. After years of making it big and living the high life in London, Davey has come home to the little Irish town in the middle of nowhere where he grew up. There have been some changes—the big old hotel in the center of town is now an abandoned ruin, and the American-style shopping mall has drained much of the business from the High Street stores—but Davey can still recognize most of the people. There’s the upstart millionaire Bob Savory, whose chain of sandwich shops (“Quality Food for the Discerning Palate”) have pushed him into the upper reaches of local society (alongside the likes of aristocratic Sir George Sanderson, publisher of the local paper, or realtor Frank Gilbey, who developed the mall). Billy Nibbs is a self-published poet who works as an investigative reporter at Sir George’s paper (The Impartial Recorder), under the serotonin-deprived guidance of editor Colin Rimmer. And Francie McGinn is the strangely charismatic pastor of the People’s Fellowship church, famous throughout this Catholic region for his quasi-pornographic wedding sermons and his Good Friday barbecues. It’s all very cozy and familiar, but the question still arises: Why did Davey turn his back on success in the big city and come home to this small pond? Maybe he wasn’t as successful as he lets on—or maybe he’s about to find something here that he overlooked the first time around.
A clever, affectionate poke in the ribs: just sentimental enough to be nostalgic, just sharp enough to avoid sentimentality.