Following in the footsteps of Donna Tartt, Claire Kilroy's third novel is a campus drama rich in arcane references and enigmatic happenings. Set in 1980s Dublin, the novel revolves around a group of mature creative-writing students and their volatile relationship with their tutor, the literary giant PJ Glynn.
The book's narrator, Declan, is the only male member of the class. His four female compatriots - Aisling, Antoina, Guinevere and Faye - form a tightly knit group from which he is largely excluded. The most fully drawn character is PJ Glynn. By turns drunken, charming and tormented, Glynn proves an entertaining composite of the indulged and feted artist. From his self-consciously brief biographical notes ("He lives in Wicklow and Havana") to his polemics in the TLS, Glynn is portrayed as a man in a "perpetual swoon of fascination" with himself.
The novel is permeated by an impending sense of doom, even if the reader is generally unsure of where they are being led. Outside the drizzle never lets up; but inside the walls of Trinity, temperatures rise as the aspiring writers build up a catalogue of rivalries and resentments. As in her previous novels, Kilroy's scrutinises the nature of artistic endeavour and its demons. But in the end, it is the revelation of Glynn as a flesh and blood human being that pushes his acolytes over the edge. This impressive novel shows Kilroy perfectly at home in the literary firmament that she describes.