MISTAKEN by Neil Jordan

MISTAKEN

KIRKUS REVIEW

The Irish filmmaker offers a doppelgänger novel about the entwined lives of two Dubliners, as his sixth work of fiction (Shade, 2004, etc.). 

They’re the same age. They look almost the same. Yet their backgrounds are strikingly different. Kevin Thunder, the narrator, lives on Dublin’s impoverished northside, while Gerry Spain is from the well-heeled southside; the class antagonisms are raw. Kevin’s father is a bookie; Gerry’s is a lawyer, later a judge. Kevin’s rough-and-tumble schooling is far inferior to Gerry’s fancy private school. Their lives, however, will overlap for some 40 years, from their adolescence in the 1960s to Gerry’s death in his mid 50s (his funeral opens and closes the novel). Kevin finds himself being mistaken for Gerry: ejected from a store for shoplifting, approached invitingly by a girlfriend. Amid the confusion he has one dependable ally: his beloved mother, the caretaker of their building’s apartments. His father is often away, and Kevin is happy to replace him (there are Oedipal overtones). Mother and son go swimming together until one day, alone, she drowns. Jordan is at his best depicting their tender solicitude and Kevin’s coming-of-age encounters with Gerry’s girls. His touch is less sure with Kevin/Gerry. They eventually meet in a series of edgy encounters. By now Gerry is an undergraduate at well-manicured Trinity, while Kevin’s at a trade school; Gerry, shy and insecure, uses Kevin’s name for his published stories. The ladies still get them confused. “Were we…the light and shade of the same person?” It’s the classic dilemma posed by the genre. Jordan plays with it, offsetting Kevin’s weak light against the increasingly dark, addicted, adulterous Gerry, but years pass before he ratchets up the tension. The climax, flashy and camera-ready, involves impersonation and murder in Manhattan, but it seems less ordained than arbitrary.

An uneven work that is at its most authentic in its evocation of a time when Dublin was more large village than city.
Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59376-433-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2012




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