EUREKA STREET by Robert McLiam Wilson
Kirkus Star

EUREKA STREET

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first of this Irish author's acclaimed novels to be published here is a surprisingly tender, complex take on life and love in Belfast at the mean-street level, where horrors mysteriously transmogrify into things of hope and beauty. Catholic narrator Jake Jackson is a paragon of conflicted allegiances: His best friend is a Protestant; he himself is an ex-tough guy who wants only to live peaceably in his house on Poetry Street with his cat; and six months after his last love left him, he longs to be in a relationship but insults every woman drawn to his handsome face. Meanwhile, his fat, balding, working-class friend Chuckle has problems of his own over on Eureka Street, though to Jake those are to die for: Chuckie has somehow become the love object of a beautiful American, who mauls him to new heights of sexual bliss; and for reasons equally obscure, financiers are suddenly throwing big money at his pie-in-the-sky ecumenical schemes. He brings Jake along for the venture-capital ride, but there are periodic reality checks. Chuckle has to go to the America in pursuit of his departed, pregnant lover, leaving Jake behind to go a few verbal rounds with her pretty, archnationalist roommate, who excoriates him for his mild-mannered take on the Troubles. The bloody streets of Belfast offer impediments to lighthearted fancy as well: Chuckie's mother goes into deep shock at being an eyewitness to a massive IRA lunch-counter bombing in which 17 are killed, and a street urchin Jake befriended is beaten nearly to death for peeing on an IRA chief's car. In the new hope offered by a cease-fire, though, love has time to conquer all. The plot twists are over the top at times, but the characters are genuine, often funny, and Wilson's evident love for the long-suffering city itself is an inspired thread that binds the story gloriously together.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Arcade