FICTION

Beatlebone

Doubleday. Nov. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780385540292. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385540308. F
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In May 1978, John Lennon attempts an escape to Dorinish, a remote island he owns off the coast of Mayo in western Ireland, where he hopes to spend three days rekindling his creativity. Pursued by paparazzi, Lennon entrusts his person and privacy to Cornelius O'Grady, who guarantees to deliver the mercurial genius to his isolated outpost without interference from the press and fans. Instead, O'Grady chaperones Lennon on an elliptical anabasis through the magical Mayo countryside. The artist eventually makes it to Dorinish, but only after spending one evening in a haunted rural pub and another at a commune of primal-scream therapy adherents. Along the way, Lennon resolves to record "beatlebone," a sonic and musical expression of his Irish odyssey.
VERDICT The best moments in Barry's second novel (which follows the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award-winning City of Bohane) happen when Lennon plays the straight man to the extraordinary O'Grady. An expository chapter describing Barry's own research journey for the book would have been a brilliant afterword but disrupts an otherwise extraordinary fiction that reads like a cross between Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Ciaran Carson's Shamrock Tea. [See Prepub Alert, 6/1/15.]

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