The Temporary Gentleman

Author(s): Sebastian Barry


This is a stunning return from the prize-winning and best-selling author of The Secret Scripture.

Jack McNulty is a 'temporary gentleman', an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him.

He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked and wandered around the world - as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer - trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself. And he has had a strange and tumultuous marriage. Mai Kirwan was a great beauty of Sligo in the 1920s, a vivid mind, but an elusive and mysterious figure too. Jack married her, and shared his life with her, but in time she slipped from his grasp.

A heart-breaking portrait of one man's life - of his demons and his lost love - The Temporary Gentleman is, ultimately, a novel about Jack's last bid for freedom, from the savage realities of the past and from himself.


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Barry is an artist of the highest order. (Claire Kilroy Guardian, Book of the Week)

'Both fascinating and moving, The Temporary Gentleman shows Sebastian Barry to be one of our finest novelists - daring, accommodating and humane.' (John Banville)

Told in Barry's flawless prose, it's a book that leaves the reader bruised long after the final page has been, regretfully, turned. (John Harding Daily Mail)

Engrossing ... memorable ... a notable addition to Barry's ongoing chronicle of lives hitherto untold. (John Boland Irish Independent)

Few contemporary novelists are better equipped to unravel a long and complex life with insight and compassion. (Max Davidson Mail on Sunday)

The story sings with strong-pulsed poetry. (Sheena Joughin Sunday Telegraph)

Arguably our greatest living novelist. (Irish Times)

'These lives are re-imagined in language of surpassing beauty.' (New York Times)

'He writes like an angel.' (James Naughtie Sunday Telegraph)

'Barry's greatness isn't just that he's a fine writer and a deeply political writer. His greatness is he does it all simultaneously: he tells a desolating story and demolishes many myths at the same time. Ireland's lucky to have him.' (Carlo Gebler Financial Times)

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His novels and plays including, most recently, On Canaan's Side (2011), have won, among other awards, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Costa Book of the Year award, the Irish Book Awards Best Novel, the Independent Booksellers Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He also had two consecutive novels, A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008), shortlisted for the MAN Booker Prize. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

General Fields

  • : 9780571276967
  • : Faber & Faber, Limited
  • : Faber & Faber, Limited
  • : October 2013
  • : United Kingdom
  • : January 2020
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Sebastian Barry
  • : Paperback
  • : Export - Airside ed
  • : English
  • : 823/.914
  • : 288