Review by Booklist Review
Addicted to Gene Tierney movies and to the ever-diminishing contents of his wine cellar, 24-year-old indolent aristocrat Charles Hythloday is doing his best to avoid dealing with his crumbling estate. Older sister Bel, a worrier of such herculean proportions that she was convinced their pet dog was suffering from a dizzying array of existential terrors, is doing her best to get her brother to engage with life. After it is discovered that Charles has inadvertently filed a series of foreclosure notices in the junk drawer, he is forced to do the unthinkable--get a job. Surprisingly enough, he is quite happy working as a bread straightener in the yule-log division of Mr. Dough, where he engages in wacky lunchtime conversations with his Latvian coworkers, while industrious Bel throws in with an actors' troupe, turning the family manse into a theater. With inspired lunacy and increasing hilarity, first-novelist Murray takes readers on a whirlwind tour of Ireland's new economy and changing population. Most impressive, though, is the way he so easily moves from farce to poignancy and back again. Whether it's Charles' dream interlude, in which Yeats makes him a mean gimlet, or the greyhound races, where all the dogs' names seem to comment on his state of mind (Trouble in Paradise), this is witty, wonderfully rich reading. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2004 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
If Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster were plopped into the 21st century, his adventures might resemble those of Charles Hythloday, the buffoonish hero of Murray's insouciant romp, shortlisted for the Whitbread. For three years, ever since his father died, 20-something Charles has been pottering around the family's crumbling seaside estate near Dublin, mixing himself gimlets and watching old movies. He sees himself as attempting to perfect sprezzatura, "the contemplative life of the country gentleman, in harmony with his status and history"; his formidable sister, Bel, and everyone else, however, view him as a shiftless drunkard, and Charles's own narration leaves little doubt whose judgment is more accurate. The reappearance of Charles's mother, who's been away at a clinic for alcoholics and is now determined to reform the rest of the family, means that his allowance is promptly cut off and he's required to get a job. This proves to be predictably difficult (a tech recruiter says, " `So in short, Charles, it's fair to say you've never worked for a living, is that right?' "). Meanwhile, the family's Bosnian housekeeper smuggles her grown-up children into the country, and Bel starts a theater company at Amaurot with the housekeeper's striking daughter, Mirela, who's much too clever for smitten Charles. Murray's blend of drawing-room comedy and postindustrial hilarity is deft and jaunty, and well-timed snippets of foreshadowing keep the story moving briskly. If the characters occasionally seem too broadly drawn, they always operate in service to the novel's witty and satirical aims. This is a breezy, highly entertaining read. Agent, Natasha Fairweather. (Aug. 10) Forecast: This will be an easy sell to Anglophiles, though some may be bemused by its unorthodox forays into real-world settings. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Since the death of his father and the institutionalization of his alcoholic mother, 24-year-old Charles Hythloday has devoted his life to reviving "the contemplative life of the country gentleman" on his family's crumbling seaside estate near Dublin. Much to his sister Bel's disgust, he spends his days primarily drinking vodka gimlets, building a Folly in the backyard, and generally avoiding the outside world. Citing the Renaissance concept of sprezzatura, Charles justifies his inaction: "If one were to laze, then one must laze beautifully. This...was the true meaning of being an aristocrat." The arrival of Frank, Bel's latest oafish boyfriend, and the discovery that the family is broke force the indolent Charles to take decisive action, including (horrors!) getting a real job. Nominated for a Whitbread First Novel Award, this likable shaggy-dog story is full of poignant humor and colorful, if at times broadly drawn, characters. Although the meandering plot starts off slowly, and Charles initially comes across as a spoiled twit, his (and his sister's) struggle to embrace life in all its complexities will endear the Hythloday siblings. to readers Strongly recommended. Wilda Williams, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A deft, funny, and ultimately quite moving debut about the strenuous and determined efforts of a young Irish aristocrat to evade all contact with the real world. Beneath a thick veneer of upper-class insouciance, Charles Hythloday is beset with problems on every side. He's a world-class drunk, a university dropout, an involuntary celibate, a spendthrift, a dreamer, and a great big baby. He's also on the verge of bankruptcy, a fact that he prefers to ignore but is being forced, slowly and reluctantly, to confront. The son of a cosmetics mogul who died a few years back and left his family a mountain of debt administered by a shady offshore bank, Charles (now 24) has never had a job and spends his days and nights roaming the house and grounds of his ancestral estate outside Dublin, methodically drinking the cellar dry and watching old Gene Tierney movies on TCM. His sister Bel has recently finished acting school and intrudes upon Charles's arcadia by bringing home a succession of boorish young men whose unfathomable accents and indescribable attire provide vivid proof of the depth of her nostalgie de la boue. Her latest beau, a junk dealer named Frank, arrives on the scene just as a succession of household objects begins to disappear on an almost daily basis. His suspicions aroused, Charles hires a private detective (actually, he's just a drunken postman) to set a trap for Frank--but the truth turns out to be stranger and more horrible than Charles had imagined. Eventually, Charles is forced to leave his little Brideshead and make his way in the world--which turns out to be just as appalling as he feared. For Bel, the consequences of her family's decline are different but even more tragic. Modern Ireland, in Murray's telling, would seem to have little room for grace or beauty--but, then again, Yeats was making the same complaint in 1916. Riotously funny from the start, the sharp edge of the author's satire turns this tale into something very different from comedy by the end and reveals Murray as a master of narrative sleight of hand. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.