The Temporary Gentleman is story of the life of an Irishman who serves as an officer in the British Army during World War Two, hence making him a temporary gentleman. This is the second book by Barry I have had the great pleasure of reading. Last November I read and posted on his set partially in a Sligo mental hospital, The Secret Scripture. Maybe by a slight margin I preferred The Temporary Gentleman but for sure I endorse reading both of them.
John "Jack" McNulty is in Accra, Ghana, 1957, working as an observer for the United Nations. He is desperately trying to write his life story. He was a bomb disposal officer during WWII and since then had worked as an observer for the U.N, mostly in Ghana. The Temporary Gentleman is another story of the Irishman as a weak and missing father, both he and the love of his life, wife and mother of his neglected children are badly addicted to alcohol. The character of the wife, Mai from Sligo, is at the heart of the novel. Jack's love for her coupled with his inability to understand her, are masterfully shown to us. She is a tragic character, her life destroyed by alcohol.
To me, The Temporary Gentleman is very much a post colonial novel about the weak father, about lives destroyed by drink, about Irish perceptions of another post colonial world in Ghana. Jack orientalizes the residents of Ghana with whom he has contact, much as the English did the Irish.
I hope to reread this book one day.
I was given a free review copy of this book.