Read the book

A Long Long Way is Sebastian Barry's epic novel of the Irish dilemma during World War One. How can you fight for king and country when most of your countrymen are telling you the king is not your king and the country at war, whose uniform you wear, is not your country?

This novel does not put forward any answer unless the answer is that there is no answer. There are no facile rights and wrongs, no good and bads here. On the other hand everything is right because it is, and at the same time everything is so very obviously wrong. Private William Dunne of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers begins by trying at least to understand and ends by not wanting to try to understand. 'Theirs not to reason why, theirs but ... ' etc.

So why read a novel this black, this much steeped in a disaster unmitigated beyond reason? My note at the beginning of Going with Gabriel , in acknowledgement of those who have most influenced me, includes the following ...

'Professor Logan Pearsall-Smith, author in 1933 of (the extended essay) On Reading Shakespeare showed my why the choice and arrangement of words can be worth more than the story; more in fact than anything.'

Sebastian Barry's words are simply worth it. Don't ask why. Read the book. Hear the music.

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