Over the last 100 pages, things got better for me, while worse for the characters, as the moral dilemmas began to play out in their heads, e.g. (p210):
Here Are the Young Men was recommended to me by Isabel Costello, following my review of Septembers, another account of alienated youth, and Bloomsbury provided my review copy.
Pondering my different reactions to these two novels, two things stood out: gender and causality. The novel I preferred was both written by another woman and provided a plausible rationale for the main character’s disaffection. While I felt concern and sympathy for Stick, I was generally irritated with Rob Doyle’s young men who, at a time when the Irish economy was still buoyant, had no excuse (or no excuse I could see). I wanted to shake them out of their narcissism, to make them walk in the shoes of more heroic – or, at least, more excusably tragic – young men: fighter-pilot Teddy; desperate Curtis; the death railway prisoners of war. Yet I wondered, and I’m wondering still, whether there was something priggish in my dismissal of these characters. As one of my fictional psychotherapist tells us, each person’s pain deserves an audience, there is no hierarchy of hurt.