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.
~Goodreads page summary~
The Temporary Gentleman a story of a man, his history, his journey, a heartbreaking love story in stunning prose as expected by master word composer Sebastian Barry.
Jack NcNulty a rogue brute, reckless, passionate man bent and shaped by his experiences in life as well as in battle. Weighed down by guilt and an equally heavy heart he reminisces of his tortured and tormented late wife Mai. Their love was turbulent, misunderstood, empty yet filled with excitement while volatile. Jack always at a crossroads, selecting the road less traveled with dire consequences. Bringing pain on to himself as well as others as his shoulders bear the burden. A complicated man with an intricate brutal history revealing himself in nakedness for the world to witness. No regrets just the agony of guilt, making no excuses while being brutally candid.
“When I write these things down, good Lord, it hits me then. The arrow goes straight through my heart.”
Barry creates a compelling story with a maverick and dichotomy in the character of Jack McNulty. The peruser pities and despises McNulty, his story is affecting, parts loathsome. May Jack find the answers and peace he seeks. Barry’s elegant poetic prose moves you beyond words, he masters show and tell in The Temporary Gentleman.