THE WILD COLONIAL BOY

By James Hynes
New York: Picador, 2002.
356 pages
ISBN # 0-312-20442-6.

Comments by Bob Corbett
February 2004

In many ways this is a much ďlighterĒ book than I am used to reading. I thought it would be might be significantly about the IRA and the Irish struggles in Northern Ireland, and in a sense it was, but in another sense it was rather shallow with fairly stereotyped characters; a page-turner of a thriller, well written for that genre. But, the insight into the Irish struggles left a great deal to be desired.

Brian Donovan is the grandson of a former IRA member. His grandfather, now very wealthy and having lived in Boston for the past 60 years, needs Brianís service. In his youth grandfather had killed a policeman in the struggles and fled to the U.S. Since becoming wealthy he sends money to the IRA. Brian has been selected to deliver $10,000 to the IRA in Belfast.

Brianís arrival coincides with a renegade movement within the PROVOS and in opposition to the Sinn Fein leadership. Jimmy Coogan is the leader of the renegades and he plans a bomb in England. Brian gets involved, sort of unaware and unwilling, sort of excessively naÔve and irresponsible. Things escalate and there is a great story to be told.

While I accuse Hynes of having fairly stereotypical characters I was simply delighted that he didnít give us a fully happily ever-aftering ending, but let the logic of Brianís position play itself out and held him responsible. That was a great surprise and delight to me.

But Brian is just too American and innocent, arrogant and typical. Worse, he meets and falls in love with just the right American girl who, again, is right out of s B-grade movie of a young American tourist to Ireland. Jimmy is the same sort of character within the IRA, scraggly, angry, wildly impulsive, short-sighted, and even Maire, his wife and a councilor in the Northern Ireland government, is just too too much her own worst stereotype.

I wonít reveal the plot. If one puts aside my own expectations of profound insights into profound characters, and just lets go and reads this for what it is, a very entertaining thriller set in Northern Ireland, then the book is quite rewarding, and I did read it in that fashion, turning the pages with excitement and speed, not able to do many other things, finding excuses to spend more and more time with the novel and finishing it within three days.

The book is worth reading for the ending alone. Here James Hynes rises a notch above most thrillers and gives us something very different, surprising to the level of shocking and far from stereotyped.

I enjoyed The Wild Colonial Boy a great deal.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu