cover image This is the Life

This is the Life

Joseph O'Neill. Farrar Straus Giroux, $18.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-374-27590-7

Jones, the narrator and protagonist of this remarkably polished debut novel, is a solitary solicitor, an ``almost transparent'' fellow who cannot understand his own failure to distinguish himself. He is obsessed with one Michael Donovan, a worldly, successful barrister who seems to be and to have everything Jones is not and hasn't got. His year of clerking for Donovan was inexplicably fruitless, but now, three years later, Jones embarks on a painful odyssey of self-discovery because Donovan has ``dug up my old future'' by reappearing in his life. Vivid and well-chosen language draws the reader into the tortures and doubts of the narrator as he wrestles with his desperation and struggles to locate himself in the world he craves. Jones's account, in terms of its plot and O'Neill's delicate treatment of its themes, recalls H. F. Saint's Invisible Man. O'Neill is a 25-year-old Irishman, a poet and barrister practicing in London; his is a first-rate first effort. (June)