Three Ir­ish­men walk into a saga

Sit­u­a­tion va­cant: an ed­i­tor for The World of To­mor­row.

New Zealand Listener - - BOOKS & CULTURE - By FIONA BAR­BER

If only this book was a cou­ple of ­hun­dred pages shorter. It might have made a half-de­cent read. As it stands, The World of To­mor­row is a turgid 552-page tale about three Ir­ish broth­ers try­ing to make it in ­pre-World War II New York that is ham­strung by too many de­scrip­tions, su­per­flu­ous story threads, two-di­men­sional char­ac­ters and, well, words.

I sus­pect New Eng­land au­thor Bren­dan Mathews had the words “sweep­ing saga” in mind when he be­gan his de­but novel and the book’s pub­lic­ity prom­ises a ­“shame­lessly good time”. It’s nei­ther.

The story, set against the back­drop of the 1939 World’s Fair – themed “The World of To­mor­row” – cen­tres on the broth­ers Dempsey. Jazz mu­si­cian Martin is shocked when his younger ­broth­ers turn up on his New York doorstep, es­pe­cially when he dis­cov­ers Fran­cis has stolen IRA cash and as­sumed the iden­tity of a fic­ti­tious Scot­tish lord. To make mat­ters worse, Michael is shell-shocked and has lost his mem­ory and some of his fac­ul­ties.

What fol­lows are the broth­ers’ at­tempts to forge a fu­ture in Amer­ica, all the while try­ing to hide the truth, re­cover the past and evade an IRA hench­man.

The too-big cast of char­ac­ters also in­cludes a photographer from Prague, a heiress be­sot­ted with the faux lord, a cou­ple of mu­si­cians, Martin’s wife’s sis­ter and, nat­u­rally, the ghost of re­cently de­ceased Ir­ish poet WB Yeats.

Judg­ing by early re­views, some have liked The Word of To­mor­row for its pe­riod de­tail, but for me it‘s over­writ­ten and un­der­whelm­ing.

THE WORLD OF TO­MOR­ROW, by Bren­dan Mathews (Si­mon & Schus­ter, $37.99)

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