Liam, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Liam)
It's been years since I've encountered a book that has so entirely consumed me as a reader. Weeks after finishing it, I'm still overwhelmed and inhabited by this world, these vivid characters. It's a dream-like, lyrical read, in which the pain and fierce joy of building an identity (queer, Irish, political, family, or otherwise) are absolutely tangible. This is not a book to pick up if you don't want your heart broken; but if you do, I doubt you will regret it.
Sofia, November 20, 2011 (view all comments by Sofia)
This book is stunning. It's deep and thoughtful and heartbreaking -- a Bildungsroman mixed with Irish history and sexual and sexual orientation awakening... O'Neill's prose is delicate and his characters are charming and unforgettable. Truly not to be missed.
Scribner Book Company -
by Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review),
"The hunger for liberation...gnaws at the big heart of this young Irish writer's engrossing, often very moving debut....Excess and overstatement do crop up, but O'Neill's warm empathy with his characters, stinging dialogue, and authentic tragic vision more than compensate: altogether, his first is the best literary news out of Ireland since the maturity of Roddy Doyle."
by Michael Pye, The New York Times Book Review,
"[A] wonderful novel....[I]n this novel the cause of Ireland and the cause of gay people fuse with a complete lack of apology or embarrassment....Jamie O'Neill has written a dangerous, glorious book: the kind that is likely to make absolutely anyone cry and laugh in public places."
by Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (Starred Review),
"This powerful debut novel...has a truly exhilarating style as the author rhythmically bends language that is, at times, of his own making....Over the many pages of his novel, O'Neill creates a stunningly vivid world in a language all his own."
by Robin Hemley, The Chicago Tribune,
"Possessing great humor and an elegiac quality that makes one mourn lost youth and poor Ireland alike, O'Neill's saga achieves a kind of richness of scope and ambition that makes one reluctant to come to its tragic and inevitable close."
by Mark Harris, Entertainment Weekly,
"[A] work of wild, vaulting ambition and achievement that transcends any genre label a critic might be foolish enough to impose on it....[O'Neill's] writing is rich and allusive (think Joyce, Wilde, Flann O?Brien), his language is blisteringly exuberant, and his vision is...acute enough to create one of the most psychologically accurate and moving love stories in recent literature. In short: wow. (Grade: A)"
by Seattle Times,
"Expressions such as 'a slice of the ignore' fill its 576 pages with a love of language that?s infectious. Slow to start but ultimately engaging, At Swim, Two Boys is as playful as it is powerful."
by Bruce Allen, The Boston Globe,
"An ambitious and absorbing novel. What elevates At Swim, Two Boys is the intensity of its central love story (an honest and moving one, whatever your orientation) and the vivid reality of the novel?s characters. There's undeniable passion and eloquence that may have many of the custodians of the Irish literary tradition spinning dizzily in their graves."
by Michael Giltz, The Advocate,
"A grand novel filled with allusions, a rollicking, language-rich stew bursting with delight."
by Elizabeth Flynn, Lambda Book Report,
"As a tender coming of age tale, vivid cultural portrait, and a story of courage in love and in war, this remarkable achievement lives up to its literary lineage and should establish Jamie O'Neill as a novelist of the first rank. By turns delightful and heartbreaking, At Swim, Two Boys is a breathtaking ride."
by Lolita Lark, RALPH: The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities,
"The great novel needs more than poetry and puns. It needs worthy and recognizable characters, it needs a worthy plot line, and it needs artistry in love — not only love between the characters, but love between author and characters. We have them all here, and I'm at a loss how to convey the grandeur of lively, often very funny dialogue — along with a sheer narrative beauty."
by Library Journal,
"Jim is too naive and Doyler too politically sophisticated for their years, while McMurrough is typecast as an Oscar Wilde figure. Still, these are rich characterizations, and together with the playfully rendered Irish dialect they outweigh the book's imperfections. O'Neill also offers gorgeous descriptions of the Dublin environs and remarkable details of the period."
by Felice Picano, author of Like People in History,
"The secret is out, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde had a child: his name is Jamie O'Neill, and his novel is a big, character-filled Edwardian triple-decker."
by Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon,
"Reading this book is like swimming itself. You have to take a deep breath first, and plunge yourself into an alien element — but as you make your way forward, it dictates quiet, ecstatic rhythms of a heightened reality. It's a book in which the full range of human passion is implied: a highly erotic love story that manages to be neither anatomically specific nor euphemistic; a narrative about politics and patriotism that avoids jingoism or sentimentality. There is a gentleness, a loveliness here that is extremely rare in modern fiction."
In the tradition of Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" comes a gloriously ambitious and resonant novel that transports readers to Dublin in the year preceding the Easter uprising--a pivotal time in Irish history and in the lives of two very young men from different backgrounds.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.