From the US Jacket ...
O’Leary Montagu was born at age twenty-five – a difficult age, as he himself admits. For the past eleven years, which is as far back as he can remember, O’Leary has been sustained by two people: his girlfriend, Mary, traumatized by O’Leary’s neuroses, and Nancy Valentine, author of Ill Fares the Land. Her memoir of an idyllic childhood in Kilbrack ends as she returns to the village after inexplicable banishment and finds it abandoned.
Now Mary has left him, and O’Leary finds himself homeless and laboring under an ill-starred fate. With his treasured copy of Ill Fares the Land, he arrives in the dilapidated village of Kilbrack and finds it hasn’t been abandoned at all: thin old Downey, the pharmacist, is still dispensing medicines and advice; Nellie Maguire is still languishing in her pub; and stout Mrs. Cuthbert, still frenzied, arranges for O’Leary to marry her daughter, who has vowed to become a nun.
What has happened to Kilbrack? O’Leary’s coming will change everything, but in a manner no one – in his right mind – could foretell.
From the UK Jacket ...
Crossing the road one night, a great black car came and ran him down. He woke two weeks later, scarred and amnesiac, a new name looking at the blank page of a new life; O’Leary Montagu, born, it would seem, at the age of twenty-five. Two women have sustained him since: Mary, the nurse who took him in when the hospital ran out of patience, and Nancy Valentine, author of Ill Fares the Land. Her memoir of an idyllic childhood in Kilbrack, with its cast of idiosyncratic characters – Nellie McGuire in her pub, stout Mrs Cuthbert and thin old Mr Downey – ends in her return to the village after sudden, inexplicable banishment to find it abandoned, in utter desolation and ruin.
Now, exasperated by his obsession, Mary has left him, fleeing to an early death back in Ireland. Armed with his treasured copy, O’Leary decides to seek out the village that has haunted him, and write the biography of his muse, Nancy Valentine. But imagine his consternation when he finds the village is not abandoned at all. Nellie McGuire is still languishing in her pub, Mrs Cuthbert still stout, J.D. Downer still dispenser of medicines and advice. What has happened to Kilbrack? What has happned to Nancy Valentine and her tale of melancholy beauty?
Thus begins Jamie O’Neill’s hilarious second novel. The canvass might be smaller, but the sense of playfulness, affection and deft characterisation are as sharp here as in his later masterpiece; for through the humour and incisive wit come the darker forebodings, the tenderness that marked the greatness of At Swim, Two Boys.