Booklist Reviews 2015 October #2
*Starred Review* All John Lennon wants is to be alone on the island he bought off the west coast of Ireland. That is the simple premise behind acclaimed Irish writer Barry's (Dark Lies the Island, 2013) singular new novel, in which he portrays the Lennon we know: acerbic, angry, confused, and, ultimately, lost. The only drama here is the remote chance that the Beatles-mad press may catch up with him; otherwise, the slim narrative consists of Lennon's painful ruminations and the dialogue between the singer and the people who are trying to get him to the elusive island of Dornish. Barry's Lennon displays a particular affection for a sad Beach Boys' song ("Well, it's been building up inside of me / for oh, I don't know how long") as Lennon recalls his mother's premature death. Barry, a great poet of a novelist, devotes an entire chapter to this tale's backstory: how he succeeded in getting to Dornish. With echoes of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and The White Album, Barry has created an unusual novel, remarkable in structure as well as tone, that channels the contradictory nature of Lennon himself. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2015 June #2
Barry broke out big with his darkly brilliant debut, City of Bohane, winner of the International Dublin IMPAC Literary Award, and has since published two showstopping collections. Here, after appearing with foresightful Graywolf, he's getting his first big-house publication in the United States, and his subject matter will have broad appeal. In a creative slump and fatefully approaching 40, John Lennon quits New York and flies across the Atlantic to locate the island off Ireland's west coast he had purchased nine years previously. A shape-shifting driver (Irish magic!) takes him on a trip to self-understanding…or something.[Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2015 November #2
In May 1978, John Lennon attempts an escape to Dorinish, a remote island he owns off the coast of Mayo in western Ireland, where he hopes to spend three days rekindling his creativity. Pursued by paparazzi, Lennon entrusts his person and privacy to Cornelius O'Grady, who guarantees to deliver the mercurial genius to his isolated outpost without interference from the press and fans. Instead, O'Grady chaperones Lennon on an elliptical anabasis through the magical Mayo countryside. The artist eventually makes it to Dorinish, but only after spending one evening in a haunted rural pub and another at a commune of primal-scream therapy adherents. Along the way, Lennon resolves to record "beatlebone," a sonic and musical expression of his Irish odyssey. VERDICT The best moments in Barry's second novel (which follows the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award-winning City of Bohane) happen when Lennon plays the straight man to the extraordinary O'Grady. An expository chapter describing Barry's own research journey for the book would have been a brilliant afterword but disrupts an otherwise extraordinary fiction that reads like a cross between Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Ciaran Carson's Shamrock Tea. [See Prepub Alert, 6/1/15.]—John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman[Page 74]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2015 September #2
In his second novel, Barry (City of Bohane) imagines John Lennon in the year 1978, deep in a funk and trying to visit Dorinish, aka Beatle Island—an island in Clew Bay, in the west of Ireland, that Lennon owned. But the press is on his tail, the weather is terrible, and all the islands look alike. Lennon and his Irish driver, Cornelius, lie low, go to a local bar (where Lennon is passed off as Cousin Kenneth from England), and, mostly, talk. Not much happens—there is rain, wind, and mist; Lennon has recurring thoughts of his parents and the Liverpool of his youth; there's an acrid encounter with some '60s holdouts. The talk, however, is beautiful: half prose, half song. It's Irish and sentimental and sly and funny and obscene, covering suicidal cows, the pleasures of cough medicine, The Muppet Show, and the way certain places exert a palpable emotional pull. Two chapters are outliers: a funny/grim one set later on, with Lennon trying to make a record, and one covering Barry's own time in Liverpool and Dorinish. This latter section, odd and lovely, seems like it could have been an author's note, but it pays off, reminding us how writing merges memory and imagination to connect the living and the dead. Agent: Lucy Luck, Lucy Luck Associates. (Nov.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC