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The Temporary Gentleman Hardcover – May 1, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (May 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025879
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Much of Jack McNulty’s life has been lost in the fog of alcoholism. What he does remember, though, he sets down in writing from his quarters in mid-1950s Ghana, reviewing with regret his path through a troubled marriage and a war. Looking back at his younger self with affectionate pity, Jack unspools his relationship with the high-spirited Mai from its bright beginning through its descent into anger and blame. The book is the sixth in a series of separate but connected novels by Irish writer Barry. Jack is the brother of the title character in Barry’s debut novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998). Barry’s prose has a dreamlike quality, with stream-of-consciousness passages capturing the memory of wartime bombings. Although McNulty is not a man to be admired, the raw elegance of his storytelling has its own beauty. The Temporary Gentleman is an arresting account of self-deception and the power of will to pretend all is well, even as the bottom falls out. --Bridget Thoreson


Praise for The Temporary Gentleman:

“One of the best writers in the English language....[Barry’s] soul-wrenching narratives and incantatory prose...are powerful canvases of the human spirit.”—Marie Arana, The Washington Post

“Barry’s prose has a dreamlike quality....The raw elegance of his storytelling has its own beauty.”—Booklist

Praise for A Long Long Way:

“A deeply moving story of courage and fidelity.”J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Prize-winning author of Disgrace
“Barry succeeds admirably in creating complex individuals who find themselves trapped in a brutal reality.”—Los Angeles Times

Praise for On Canaan's Side:

“Sebastian Barry's handling of voice and cadence is masterly. His fictional universe is filled with life, quiet truth and exquisite intimacy; it is also fully alert to the power and irony of history. In evoking Lilly Bere, he has created a most memorable character.”—Colm Tóibín, author of the Costa Novel Award-winning Brooklyn

“A story of love and loss, as Irish as the white heather and as big-hearted as America itself.”—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

“A marvel of empathy and tact.”—Joseph O’Neill, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award winning novel Netherland

Praise for The Secret Scripture

“Prose of often startling beauty.”—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

“Language of surpassing beauty….It is like a song, with all the pulse of the Irish language.”—The New York Times

“Luminous and lyrical.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

Praise for The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty:

“A symphony of a novel, and you’ll sing along and wander…into the next century.”—Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes
“[Barry’s] words have a stony allure of the Irish poets and the lyrical pull of an epic storyteller.”—The Boston Globe


More About the Author

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His play, The Steward of Christendom, first produced in 1995, won many awards and has been seen around the world. His novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, appeared in 1998. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

Sebastian Barry is one of my all-time favourite authors.
Bronwen Jones
As I kept reading the book was about a story of love at first sight and hopes that he would be able to marry her.
A great story brought to life by a truly great Story Teller!
S. McGrath

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gail Ofterdinger on May 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I rarely have difficulty writing a review of a book that i have enjoyed reading, until now. This book is dark and disturbing. The love bond between Jack McNulty and his wife Mai is twisted and revolting. The term "temporary gentleman" refers to more than Jack's military years and applies to most aspects of his life. What kind of family man becomes a bomb de-fuser? What kind of man sneaks money from his wife's secret stash of cash to pay his gambling debts and bar bills until there is none left? What kind of man allows the lien holder to take the house because he cannot say no to his wife's extravagances and their shared alcohol addiction? What kind of man observes his wife's abuse of their children and takes off the next day? What kind of man deliberately finds ways to avoid living with his family? Both husband and wife are lonely and madly in love with each other. Reading this book filled my evening with sadness. But the language used and the writing style are beautiful and elegant. I was transported back to an earlier century, to the time of my parents and grandparents. I loved learning of the tales of emerging African states. I loved hearing the tales about life in the Ireland that was and to be. But I am still left with sadness. Lost years and misunderstood signals. Selfishness and tragedy. My emotions remain torn open. Kudos Mr. Barry, a job well done. My thanks to the Penguin First to Read program for a complimentary copy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By roger john bresnihan on April 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautiful, tragic, romantic, poetic prose, whimsical at times and a lovely contrasting narrative structure between Accra in Ghana and the wet and blowy west of Ireland. There is suspense too, because you are waiting for tragedy to strike. Thank you Sebastian Barry. Having said all that, I wonder why the author chose to begin his story with the dramatic opening chapter?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on May 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of Sebastian Barry. I've read every one of his books, often more than once, and thus am well acquainted with the McNulty clan of whom he writes. "The Secret Scripture" is a heart-rending book; "On Canaan's Side" is very nearly perfect. The third of this trilogy, "The Temporary Gentleman," is, though gorgeously written, my least favorite of the three. It is essentially a tale of a terrible downhill slide for its main characters (based, apparently, on Barry's own grandparents, which is a very sad thought). It is a tragedy told with dizzying poetics (almost too poetical at times). Jack McNulty is characterized with far more pathos here than his portrayal in "Secret Scripture" (so different, in fact, that it might as well be a different person altogether -- I'm still puzzling over that -- although maybe it has to do with points of view). Barry manages to make a caring but unseeing man extremely sympathetic. One almost has to read between the lines to understand how he essentially abandoned his family, so delicately has Barry rendered this man's voice, with all its love, all its blind bafflement. I am a deep, true fan of Barry's writing and will probably inhale just about anything he puts down on paper. That said, this one was almost too endlessly tragic even for me. But I still recommend it, even if just for the experience of being in the same sphere as an absolute master novelist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Irish author Sebastian Barry has returned to the Sligo area of Ireland, in his new novel, "The Temporary Gentleman". Two of his previous novels - which I haven't read yet - are about the McNulty family. "The Temporary Gentleman" is about Jack McNulty and how his great love for both his wife Mai and for drink has helped to ruin her life and left him a wrecked soul living in Ghana.

Jack McNulty is one of the most interesting fictional characters I've come across in a while. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, his life has revolved around Mary (Mai) Kirwan, a physically beautiful but emotionally fragile young woman, who he woos, weds, and then helps destroy. I wondered that if you idolise someone, as Jack did Mai, does that make communicating with that person difficult? Does it make seeing her emotional weaknesses impossible? Do you not want to admit the person you love so dearly has so many flaws: Certainly Jack had very little idea of how fragile Mai was when they courted. Her odd actions on their wedding day would seem to be a precursor of troubled times ahead. Jack was certainly warned by his mother and Mai's closest friend that Mai was "delicate". But warning does not always translate into awareness by the person being warned...

Jack McNulty was able to come and go after they were married. After an early stay in west Africa with Jack, Mai returned to Ireland to give birth to their older daughter. Jack stayed in Africa and then served in the British army in several engineering jobs. He was in Sligo for long periods of time, however, and managed to lose Mai's family home through indebtedness. But was that all Jack's fault?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By GMDublin on May 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Narrated by Jack McNulty (loosely based on Barry's maternal Grandfather), the novel is set between mostly between Accra, Ghana and Sligo, Ireland. It is 1957 and Jack is recounting the story of his life and his love for Mai. It's a sorrowful tale dealing with alcoholism and the ruination of a fine young woman by a flawed but not charmless man.
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