An extraordinarily haunting novel from acclaimed Irish novelist Sebastian Barry. Tom Kettle, retired Detective Sergeant, is visited by two young policemen with questions that gradually point to Tom’s possible involvement in a ‘cold case’ – the murder many years ago of an unconvicted paedophile priest. Both Tom and his wife June were child victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and as the story unfolds, the novel becomes both a moral denouncement of systemic abuse and the widespread cover-ups that followed, and a heartfelt affirmation of the enduring love of family. One of the most remarkable aspects of this courageous and moving novel is the creation of Tom’s inner life, one that is shattered by trauma and the confusions of cognitive impairment, and which increasingly call his reliability as a narrator into question. One of the novel’s central issues is that of retributive justice: what would we be prepared to do to punish the abusers? It also asks: can love in later life ever be enough to repair the damage inflicted on vulnerable children? It's shocking, tender and compassionate; and I haven’t read such a beautifully written, emotionally intense and ethically necessary work of fiction in years.
Sebastian Barry never misses for me, both tense and gritty it manages to be lyrical and completely evocative of place. Tom Kettle's account through the trauma of painful memory and its unreliable threads as he has to recall them, now advanced in age perfectly evokes this character. It confronts child sexual abuse, both Tom and his wife's lived experience and is heartbreakingly graphic in this portrayal. I love this writer and this book.
There were no saints in any era, Tom knew, just good men and bad, and sometimes both in the one bottle.
Retired policeman Tom Kettle is enjoying the quiet of his new home, a lean toannexed to a white Victorian Castle in Dalkey overlooking the sea. Formonths he has barely seen a soul, but his peace is interrupted when twoformer colleagues turn up at his door to ask questions about a decades-oldcase. A traumatic case which Tom never quite came to terms with.
His peace is further disturbed by a young mother and family who move in next door, a woman on the run from her own troubles. And what of Tom's family, his wife June and their two children?
A beautiful, haunting novel, in which nothing is not quite what it seems, Old God's Time is about what we live through, what we live with, and what will survive of us.