“This was not a scene of bravery, but it seemed to Willie in his fear and horror that there was a truth in it nonetheless. It was the thing before a joke was fashioned about it, before an anecdote was conjured up to make it safe, before a proper story in the newspaper, before some fellow with the wits would make a history of it. In the bleakness of its birth there was an unsullied truth, this tiny event that might make a corpse of him and all his proper dreams.”
Set during World War I, A Long Long Way is a story of a young man, Willie Dunne, who enlists in the army in order to fight for King and country. Except Willie is Irish, and soon he finds that he has conflicting loyalties between his homeland and the country he is serving. Every reason for being on the front lines has been turned upside down, and Willie is floundering, trying to grasp onto any bit of truth and goodness, only to see to torn from him.
This is a beautiful and harrowing story of war, love, loss and allegiance. Sebastian Barry’s writing is so beautiful and has such depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if his novels were offered as part of a college course. Not surprising, this book was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. My only negative comments were the slowness in the last third of the book, and the difficulty of warming to the main character. He didn’t leave me cold, but really, I should have sobbed over him.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005