four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
By: 
Paul Murray
user_rating: 
0

A-EveningLongGoodbyeCharles Hythloday is resolved to do absolutely nothing with his life. A 20-something malcontent who rejects reality, he spends his days and nights watching Gene Tierney movies at his family’s crumbling estate near Dublin and emptying the contents of its wine cellar. He eschews work of any kind, opting instead to fritter away his father’s fortunes while ignoring the pressing notices from bill collectors. When the appearance of his younger sister, Bel, and the return of their mother (fresh out of rehab) interrupt this life of determined slothfulness, Charles is forced to make his way in the modern world.
Random House. 432 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400061164

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Clueless as Charles is, his acidic sarcasm provides a delicious commentary on the vacuous cant of employee motivation efforts, the venal world of temp agencies, the slave conditions of immigrant workers. … There is something dreadful about modern culture, so consumed with getting and spending." Ron Charles

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"For a debut novel, An Evening of Long Goodbyes has more depth and humanity than many books by America’s most noted living writers." Charles Ealy

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Wry sense of humor and vocabulary of antiquated English expressions? Check. A taste for finery and snobbery so ironic it single-handedly disproves the post-9/11 irony is dead theory? Indeed, check. An ear for dialogue and a fetish for all things beautiful? Triple check." John Freeman

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Murray has an unerring ear for pacing and comic timing in the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse and Noel Coward. In a precocious debut, this young bookseller-turned-author has already demonstrated spezzatura in action: ‘to do whatever one did with grace, to imbue one’s every action with beauty, while at the same time making it look quite effortless.’" Irina Reyn

The Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Charles’s misadventures will have readers laughing out loud…. In fact, Charles is such good company that it’s easy to forget how frustrating his insistence on ignoring uncomfortable truths is for Bel." Elizabeth Bukowski

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"These early scenes, in which Charles tries in vain to protect the sanctity of his ancestral home, are the novel’s best. … The novel achieves an unexpected poignancy as it becomes clear that Charles’s paralytic attachment to the past has as much to do with this impossible love for the fragile Bel as it does for ancient Ireland." Stephen Amidon

Critical Summary

Irish writer Murray makes a brilliant debut with Long Goodbyes, which was a finalist for the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award after its publication in the U.K. in 2003. Often compared to P.G. Wodehouse, Noel Coward, John Kennedy Toole, and Flann O’Brien (an Irish satirist), with a touch of Chekhov thrown in, Murray has penned a solipsistic soliloquy that deftly mixes farce and melodrama with social commentary. Most critics had few complaints, though a few noted some blips in the plotting. And The New York Times Book Review noticed a lapse in Charles’ voice once he left his seaside home for the slums. Still, all agree that Long Goodbyes is a bittersweet, and above all memorable, first novel.