While the description may be over-the-top when applied to Sir William Wilde or John Butler Yeats, it certainly applies in spades to John Stanislaus Joyce, whose life is almost a caricature of an artist in search of himself at the expense of his family. This is a wonderful book, full of telling character observations and synthesising a wide range of sources.
But actually the most moving part for me (as a former Dublin resident) was the loving description of one street: Westland Row, that runs along the back of Trinity College up towards Merrion Square. Tóibín moves up it almost house-by-house, detailing what happened where and how it's change in the intervening century. It gave me a sudden pull of nostalgia, so poignant that I could see the street and hear the trains on the Dart bridge above. That was an unexpected additional pleasure from an excellent biography.
Finished on Wed, 03 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800. Rating 5/5.