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Book Review ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ by Jamie O’Neill

Title: At Swim, Two Boys

Author: Jamie O’Neill

Length: 643 pages

Publisher: Scribner


This book was hard to get into at first, but it’s so worth it in the end. Whilst the storytelling and the writing is magical, it could’ve been shorter.

Out as the Forty Foot, that great jut of Dublin rock where gentleman bathe in the scandalous nude, two boys meet day after day. They make a pact: that Doyler will teach Jim to swim and, in a year, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of the Muglins rock, to raise the green and claim it for themselves. As a turbulent year drive la inexorably towards the Easter Rising of 1916 and Ireland sets forth on a path to uncertain glory, a tender, secret love story unfolds.

‘All love does ever rightly show humanity our tenderness.’

There is something special about this novel. I’ve often read that people describe this book as lyrical and I completely see why. It flows as your reading it. Chapter 8, is truly one of the best chapters I’ve read in any book. It’s magical. It’s a great introduction to ‘MacMurrough’ who has since become one of my favourite characters I’ve ever read. He’s smart, witty and his character goes on a real journey. I think that’s the best thing about this novel, it’s the storylines that the characters embark on.

The love story between Jim and Doley, the main characters, is sweet and tender. It needed to be sweet because the rest of the novel is about the unrest in Ireland before the war hits the country. The romance is totally believable, and you find yourself rooting for them. I thought their love story was going to be the main focus of the book, but it wasn’t. It was at times the main driving point but often got pushed into the background. But it truly shined when these characters were at the forefront. The novel had a few subtle surprises in there, which kept it fresh. The ending was climactic which I didn’t expect.

Now there were a few things wrong with this book in my opinion. It was very long, and I don’t think it needed to be. The book needed less character perspectives because it just became overwhelming. To give them there own perspective didn’t anything to the book. I know the oncoming war was a big part of the story line, but Jim and Doyler should’ve been the main focus as it was there story that made this book special. It’s also written with Irish dialect which made it very hard to begin with but make sure you persevere, it’s worth it.

I would definitely recommend this book. Especially for people who like historical fiction, Irish history, LGBT romance and beautifully written books. Comment and let me know

Until the next review


7 thoughts on “Book Review ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ by Jamie O’Neill”

  1. I’ve been looking for a good LGBT book recently and this definitely made the top of my to buy list. Thank you for sharing such an honest review! I’d also add you on Goodreads but I still don’t know how to use it!!

    Nic |


  2. Thank you for sharing and reviewing this book! I’ve never seen it out there and it sounds Interesting. You are right it is quite big but I really like LGBT and historical fiction 🙂


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