A bored, middle-aged, British coach driver finds an affair, adventure and intrigue in Ireland.
After his father’s passing in World War II, Peter and his mum move to Ireland to begin a new life; however, just as he’s becoming adjusted, he’s shipped back to England for employment. From there, Peter finds new work on a lathe, meets a woman, gets her pregnant, marries her, settles into the bus-driving business, gets deadly bored with his wife and local life, heads up a coach service between England and Ireland and starts an affair with a young hotel hostess in Limerick—all within but a few pages. The breezy first-person narration of Peter’s life helps get readers quickly into the atmosphere of the story, but often builds psychological firewalls between Peter’s actions and his conscience. For a first-person narration, Peter is rarely caught dwelling on the absurdity of some of his flaws and the admirability of many of his strengths. It’s revealed to be quite possible that Peter is being manipulated by his acquaintance Patrick into carrying illicit materials sent to England care of the Irish Republican Army. But Peter, apparently in a fog because of his affair with the young, married Mary (they often make love only a few rooms away from her drunken husband), seems slow to put the pieces together or to seriously question the terrors in which he may well be intimately involved. Nonetheless, Peter, with his pluck, wit and basic tendency toward goodness, eventually develops, as does the narrative and its mysteries. Indeed, much of the political intrigue, striking the familiar themes associated with Ireland’s troubles (e.g. religion, family, fierce blood loyalties), is veiled allegory for navigating through the treacherous personal territories of marriage, fidelity, friendship and career. The novel is typeset in something like Comic Sans, which is an unfortunate distraction because, as the novel develops and Peter finally learns who his real friends and loves are, Lewis crafts heartrendingly moving, authentic lessons to be taken seriously from Peter’s exciting—but not always sensible—sympathetic life.
A moving—sometimes too quickly—story about personal relationships, politics and the meaning we derive from both.