The Temporary Gentleman

Jack McNulty saw his share of danger in World War II, but he is no hero. He drinks too much and gambles away money he doesn't have. An accomplished builder of bridges and roads, Jack may have ventured from his native Ireland to the far reaches of the globe, but he displays far less skill for spanning the gulfs in his own home. McNulty's wife, the brilliant and beautiful Mai Kirwan, is the woman of his dreams. But she is as unpredictable as she is wise, and as the years take their toll, McNulty's unwavering love for Mai might not be enough to save the marriage.

The Temporary Gentleman is the sixth in a series of novels in which Sebastian Barry fictionalizes the lives of his ancestors. It takes the form of McNulty's account of his own life, set down on paper as he lingers in Accra, Ghana, before returning home to Ireland. Beyond Jack's wild adventures, which include a narrow escape from a torpedo attack and a spectacular automobile accident in the Hindu Kush, what emerges is a moving portrait of the strange, enduring bond between two difficult people. With a perfect grasp of the wild and messy realities of actual lives, Barry subtly evokes the deep collision of regret and gratitude in McNulty's long look back, while remaining true to the story's simplicity: Jack McNulty is an ordinary man with ordinary triumphs and tragedies, and we relate to him all the more for it. --Casey O'Neil, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company

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