cover image Beatlebone


Kevin Barry. Doubleday, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-54029-2

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. Agent: Lucy Luck, Lucy Luck Associates. (Nov.)