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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

Book Review: Isle Of The Blest by Eugene Christy

With the August publication of The Isle of the Blest, Eugene Christy has completed the final volume of his American Quintet. The series traces the story of Christy's immigrant family. The Isle of The Blest also completes Christy's coming of age as an important American writer. The 600-page final novel, a fictionalized memoir, traces Christy's yearlong sojourn in Ireland (1971-72) in the midst of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". This book is quite simply a masterpiece. 
After a visit by the FBI, Petrovich has been fired by a Massachusetts anti-poverty program for organizing anti-war protests. Disillusioned with his country, he is on his way to the emerald isle to reunite with his native-born wife and daughter. The book begins with a view out the window of his aircraft and continues in a small village in County Mayo. Christy's portraits of the countryside, his in-laws and life in a rural Irish village are beautifully nuanced, his command of language and his memory for detail, stunning.
It is with Nick's move to Dublin in search of a job, to support his wife and daughter Aisling, that the novel really hits its stride. The gritty details—his colorful characterizations—set the reader down amidst the quotidian reality of working-class Dublin. Soon enough Nick encounters and joins Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA. We meet Mick, the budding revolutionary, the sultry radical Bernadette and Comrade Krishna, the Indian expatriate, all young people dedicated to the Republican cause.
 We are on the ground with the protestors during Dublin's Mountjoy Prison Riot. We see much of it from the perspective of the men wielding the petrol bombs. We experience the short-lived Northern Island "Truce" and get down and dirty with the residents of Belfast's infamous Bogside ghetto. And through it all, Christy, using masterly language, literally rubs our faces in the smells, the sights, the sounds and the desires and disappointments of the people of The Blessed Isle.
The Isle of The Blest is the story of an alienated young man—like so many— who came of age amidst the turmoil of the 1960s. It is also the story of young love and a political statement. The writing will shock, entertain and enchant you.  The story will keep you turning pages. Get it!  Read it! Don't worry if you haven't read the earlier books; The Isle Of The Bleststands on its own. It is a unique and compeling narrative. it won't disappoint you.

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Book Review: Eugene Christy's Arriverdverci New York

I just finished reading Arrivederci, New York, the first volume of Eugene Christy's promised five volume family saga, the Twentieth Century Quintet. An ambitious undertaking by any standard.


The first volume focuses on Tony LaStoria, a ten year old Italian boy seeking to return to New York. A very young boy fleeing a brutal father. Christy renders the beginning of Tony's adventures with verve and a lyrical prose which borders the poetic. "On his cheeks he felt tears carving rivulets into his face the way the rivers of time and place chiseled rivers into the mountains.


Then Tony arrives in Manhattan and Christy's astonishing grasp of a particular time and place transports the reader back to the New York City of the early days of the 20th century. Without sacrificing the story, Christy does an excellent job of describing the exploitation and the many hardships immigrants were forced to endure in the old New York before the rise of the unions—the sweatshops, the piecework system of the garment district, structured not unlike today with work done by "independent" contractors.


Arrivederci, New York is a rich narrative. We are treated to a whole cast of characters, Italians, Polish and Jew, as well as contemporary politics and union organizing. Christy has done his homework. This is a very different sort of fictionalized memoir, an immigrant's saga which both tells a great story and informs the reader. I highly recommend it and look forward to the next book in the series.



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