At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

Review: I had mixed feelings about this book, because I’m just the sort of person who prefers to find books on my own whether it’s gay fiction or not. To read and research them beforehand and decide if I wish to read them. This was a gift to me by a very old and dear Irish friend who absolutely loved it. For him, more than for the book itself, I read it. I am infinitely glad I did.

“At Swim, Two Boys” was brilliant in providing a setting and mood of this period in Irish history, and the bittersweet aspect of love, obligation, and the helplessness one feels towards perceived inevitability. Though some readers laboured with portions of the dialect, since I’m quite used to hearing it from the above friend, it wasn’t a problem for me.

My conclusion towards it reflects some of my own feelings about my writing, which can contain difficult subjects. Just like in life, even when the most horrible and unthinkable happens, is one suppose to lament eternally in a way others think proper, or will you write it as you’ve experienced and/or observed? Whether a reader identifies with your way of writing your story, shouldn’t keep you from writing the way you see fit. I think Jamie O’Neill did that exceptionally well. An outstanding example of thought-provoking fiction, not just gay fiction.

Note: I was fortunate to have a first edition local printing, as some have remarked the changes made to later editions.

Paperback, 576 pages
Published February 25th 2003 by Scribner (first published 2000)
ISBN: 0743222954 (ISBN13: 9780743222952)
Source: Gift from a friend


Filed under Gay Fiction, Historical Fiction, Reviews

2 responses to “At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

  1. I absolutely loved this book. O’Neill created a palpable atmosphere and even though I read it about 12 months ago, I can still recall some of the visual images it produced in my mind. I found the language delightfully challenging – found myself looking up words – something I haven’t had to do when reading a novel since grammar school, and wished I could find a knowledgeable source to clarify some of the idioms. Being of Irish heritage, I did imagine some kinship with the characters and felt like I was getting a glimpse into a culture I know little about. I think this novel is a work of art, and I am sure I will read it again someday.

    • That’s a special interest of mine also. Though this one is not translated to English from another language exactly, it does have it’s distinctive accent. I love to consider a culture and society through its words. Challenging, oh yes, yet the reward is very satisfying as you experience a different place and peoples. I agree, it is a work of art, quite unique and it’s nice when others (although I am not the writer of course!) appreciates it as well.

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