In a narrative that spans more than 60 years in the lives of its characters, Irish author Cunningham examines a Jules-and-Jim–type love affair as well as a mysterious incident from D-Day.
In David Copperfield fashion, Chud Church begins by recounting the circumstances of his conception and birth. His father was an Italian sailor passing through the Irish port of Monument and his mother a local beauty who dies at a relatively young age. Chud is raised by his formidable maternal grandmother, Ma Church, who becomes a successful entrepreneur and property owner. The core of the story revolves around Chud’s relationship to Jack Santry, scion of a prominent family, and Rosa Bensey, the love interest of both Jack and Chud. Owing to a coin toss before the two friends set out for the D-Day Invasion, Jack winds up marrying Rosa and Chud is relegated to the status of “good friend.” Fate has other things in store, of course, including a postwar scandal involving Jack’s cowardice on that day and a subsequent attempt on the part of a fellow soldier to blackmail him. Chud finds out about the blackmailer, visits him and, in anger, winds up killing him—though almost no one knows this at the time. Eventually, Chud and Rosa begin a passionate affair, a consummation that for many years Chud has devoutly wished for, despite his own marriage and the birth (and death) of a daughter. As Cunningham traces his story across decades and several generations, we learn that Jack and Rosa’s son Kevin desires to exact revenge on Chud, and he does this through exerting severe economic pressure.
A lovingly detailed examination of 20th-century Anglo-Irish culture as well as a dissection of personal relationships.