Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children, Winnie and Joe. But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.
A beautiful, tragic book ... Barry is a poet and playwright as well as a novelist, and lyricism and drama jostle in nearly all his sentences, many of which are stuffed to bursting ... The novel’s ending is a dramatic exploration of the possibility of atonement. One cannot say for sure whether his putative redemption is 'verifiably' real or fantastical, but there can be no doubt about how Tom feels. The final pages are ravishing.
A relentlessly bleak, stunning novel about how the effects of violence and abuse can reverberate for years and across generations ... Barry has always had a gift for creating memorable characters, and Tom is one of his most fascinating ones, in large part because of his unreliability ... Barry's prose is, as usual, wonderful. The writing, at times, borders on stream of consciousness ... It likely goes without saying that Old God's Time can be immensely, almost physically painful to read ... A powerful, painful novel, another excellent offering from Barry, who is clearly one of the best Irish writers working today.
It is typical of Barry, a writer of almost Joycean amplitude, that this essentially tragic tale should be packed with moments of comedy and joy ... Barry’s artistry is such that you can read almost the entire book without realizing an essential fact about Miss McNulty and her son: they are ghosts, of a kind ... The best way to understand Kettle may be as an eccentric portrait of Sebastian Barry, a writer of historical fiction who has described himself as a sort of human radio, picking up frequencies from the long ago. In Old God’s Time, those frequencies carry the music of Kettle’s abundant inner life ... Barry’s casually exquisite prose, capable of lyrical expansion but always firmly rooted in the dialect of the tribe, seems to capture them all ... A great demotic aria to existence, which, for all its grief and abjection, he sees as something full of grace.