Tom Iremonger is the face of Ireland in the 90s. Young, beautiful, materialistic. Bullied at school, at Trinity College he morphed from Tomàs Iremonger to Iremonger, sultan of cool, complete with the Rules of Cool. He comes home to Dublin for Christmas set on impressing his friends and avoiding his family. Home has other plans, however, as he is forced to deal with the ghost of his grandfather’s death from cancer, the ghost of his grandfather’s anti-Semitic acts as a civil servant, and the pull of Dublin.
Iremonger claims to be postmodern, undergoing a postmodern anti-Odyssey with his grandfather’s inheritance. He drinks, snorts, smokes, spends, and has sex across the globe. He disdains Dublin, Ireland, U2 and the bourgeois cycle of life. He does it all sporting a super-cool jacket that he names Nico.
For the first half of this book I contemplated not finishing it, but the scenes were so crisp and the dialogue so engaging that I kept going. The problem was not the writing. The problem was me. I am not a twenty-something reader who was identifying with Iremonger and his privileged malaise about the endless cycle of people living small lives. I am nearly forty with a ne’er do well twenty-ish son who wishes he could drink, snort, smoke, spend and scrump his way across the globe, but who lacks a rich relative who would leave him a bequest to allow it.
Iremonger irritated the hell out of me. Instead I identified with his mother, hopeful for signs of maturity, but endlessly disappointed; I recognized his father, crushed by his son’s failures into seeing them as his own failures as a parent.
Near the end of the book, as Iremonger is preparing to depart Dublin for Paris once again, having tastefully disposed of his family at the airport restaurant in order to avoid the cloying goodbyes at the boarding pass gate, his father hollers for him. Iremonger turns back and sees his father, weary and ill. This man, downtrodden by his own aging body, apologizes to his son for failing him as a parent. Iremonger tells him he has not failed, that he never stood in his way, to which his father replies, I know. Ouch. Parenting at this point in the project, the early adult point, just sucks.
Cremins gives Iremonger his in the end and gives us a comforting moral that you can’t really leave home.
Which led to some cognitive dissonance three pages later on the author blurb, which tells me that Cremins, a Dublin native, now lives in Texas.
Postscript: And seriously, the worst cover art I’ve seen all year. Just awful. Even for the 90s.