It doesn’t take much to excite me so when I say that this book has done that, it may not have the impact that I intend. I can only say this is an exceptional novel and that it really really really excites me.Beatlebone is about John Lennon and his fictional quest to revisit his actual island in Ireland. John Lennon owned a very small island there and visited it only a few times. Kevin Barry imagines what might have happened if John had gone back in 1978 on a sort of spiritual quest. John’s mantra is that he just wants to “get to his island,” but there are a slew of obstacles and false paths he must overcome before he can get there and get back. Believing himself too happy and thus unable to write, John wants to get to that uninhabited island, Scream his guts out, and return inspired.
The novel is strange and experimental, something that has earned Kevin Barry the Goldsmiths prize for original literature. But, as he himself has said at several of his readings, the novel is also a variation on a classic theme. John Lennon and his guide Cornelius O’Grady are ultimately playing out a variation of Don Quixote, riding around in a Mercedes and tilting at their own windmills. Barry has spoken many times about his belief that the novel form should be used for experimentation, something evident in his City of Bohane, which I reviewed earlier in the year. This novel is not like anything else you will read this year; it is wholly unique. No knowledge about John Lennon or the Beatles is required but if you are a fan of either or both, this will surely appeal to you. Contemporary Irish writing is in a sort of golden age right now. Everything I recommend these days seems to come from that corner of the world and this addition to it is well worth the read. I give it my highest recommendation and I hope you pick up a copy soon. Happy Monday! Nothing makes a Monday better than a good book 🙂