A searing novel that blends truth and fiction--and Beatles fandom--from one of literature's most striking contemporary voices, author of the international sensation City of Bohane.
It is 1978, and John Lennon has escaped New York City to try to find the island off the west coast of Ireland he bought nine years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, his approaching forties, his inability to create, and his memories of his parents, he sets off to find calm in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when he puts himself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour.
Based on fact--Lennon really did own an island in Ireland; and he truly did spend time there in the months just before his untimely death--this is a story such as only an extraordinary Irish writer could tell.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We were transfixed by this lyrical novel, which imagines a downtrodden John Lennon escaping his Manhattan “fortress” to find solitude on his small private island off the coast of Ireland. Kevin Barry’s narration reflects his protagonist’s soul—shifting from poetic and spiritual to rough and bawdy. Weary of his fame and spooked by his flagging creativity, Beatlebone’s fictional Lennon is someone you want to stay close to. The musician’s friendship with his wise and salty Irish driver leads to entertaining, page-turning adventures.
In his second novel, Barry (City of Bohane) imagines John Lennon in the year 1978, deep in a funk and trying to visit Dorinish, aka Beatle Island an island in Clew Bay, in the west of Ireland, that Lennon owned. But the press is on his tail, the weather is terrible, and all the islands look alike. Lennon and his Irish driver, Cornelius, lie low, go to a local bar (where Lennon is passed off as Cousin Kenneth from England), and, mostly, talk. Not much happens there is rain, wind, and mist; Lennon has recurring thoughts of his parents and the Liverpool of his youth; there's an acrid encounter with some '60s holdouts. The talk, however, is beautiful: half prose, half song. It's Irish and sentimental and sly and funny and obscene, covering suicidal cows, the pleasures of cough medicine, The Muppet Show, and the way certain places exert a palpable emotional pull. Two chapters are outliers: a funny/grim one set later on, with Lennon trying to make a record, and one covering Barry's own time in Liverpool and Dorinish. This latter section, odd and lovely, seems like it could have been an author's note, but it pays off, reminding us how writing merges memory and imagination to connect the living and the dead.