Three Irishmen walk into a saga
Situation vacant: an editor for The World of Tomorrow.
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)