At Swim, Two Boys

Jamie O'Neill


Reviewed: 2016-11-27

At Swim, Two Boys is Jamie O'Neill's masterpiece of 1915 Ireland. While Britain is distracted with the European War, opinion is divided as to whether Ireland should support this war effort in return for the promised Home Rule or whether Ireland should seize the opportunity to rise against all forms of Occupation. 

Young Jim Mack is somewhat protected, in suburbanite Kingstown, by his social climbing father and college scholarship. His pal, Doyler Doyle, has a less stable homelife and is drawn to the dangerous world of Larkin. Into their lives comes MacMurrough, a well-bred Irish Anglophile who struggles with demons of his own.

A beautifully drawn portrait of a time in Irish history that is often idealised and rose-tinted, ONeill has created a cast of three-dimensional characters, authentic lyrical language, a beautiful love story and an unlikely hero. 560-odd pages of gold.

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