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The Temporary Gentleman

Sebastian Barry

A stunning return from the prize-winning and best-selling author of The Secret Scripture

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A stunning return from the prize-winning and best-selling author ofThe Secret Scripture

Jack McNulty is a ‘temporary gentleman’, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him.

He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked
and wandered around the world – as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer – trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself. And he has had a strange and tumultuous marriage. Mai Kirwan was a great beauty of Sligo in the 1920s, a vivid mind, but an elusive and mysterious figure too. Jack married her, and shared his life with her, but in time she slipped from his grasp.

A heart-breaking portrait of one man’s life – of his demons and his lost love – The Temporary Gentleman is, ultimately, a novel about Jack’s last bid for freedom, from the savage realities of the past and from himself.

Critic Reviews

'One's heart leaps into one's mouth and stays there . . . Exhilarating.'

Charlotte Moore, Spectator
Critic Reviews

Barry is an artist of the highest order.

Claire Kilroy, Guardian, Book of the Week
Critic Reviews

'Both fascinating and moving, The Temporary Gentleman shows Sebastian Barry to be one of our finest novelists - daring, accommodating and humane.'

John Banville
Critic Reviews

'I loved Jack and Mai's story, which oozes panache . . . Barry is brilliant on the ways of marriage.'

Ann Treneman, The Times
Critic Reviews

'This novel is an elegy - not for a temporary gentleman but for his wife . . . Almost as if good writing might have the power to save a marriage or contain the secret of happiness . . . Rare and heart-breaking.'

Kate Kellaway, Observer
Critic Reviews

Told in Barry's flawless prose, it's a book that leaves the reader bruised long after the final page has been, regretfully, turned.

John Harding, Daily Mail

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. The 2018-21 Laureate for Irish Fiction, his novels have twice won the Costa Book of the Year award, the Independent Booksellers Award and the Walter Scott Prize. He had two consecutive novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, A Long Long Way (2005) and the top ten bestseller The Secret Scripture (2008),…

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Barry, Sebastian 2016_The Irish Times (1)
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