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A Wild People by Hugh Leonard  

A Wild People by Hugh Leonard
Published by Methuen Publishing Ltd., 2001

This is Hugh Leonard’s first foray into novel writing. He is best known as a columnist with various newspapers and as a playwright. This novel is set in ‘literary’ Dublin and is a satire on the pretensions of the upwardly mobile middle class.

The writing is vintage Leonard – sharp and funny and accurate in it’s portrayal of a certain type of Dublin social milieu. The characters are very well drawn and the dialogue comes alive on the page. He manages to get the turn of phrase that enables the reader to hear the accent of the speaker, whether Dart Dublin, Stage Italian or ripe Kerry. His descriptions are brilliant – the gossip columnist who is ‘a litigious sharp-faced red-head of 50 who had a perpetual bad hair day’ and the Kerry poet ‘with a mangold –shaped head’ and a mouth ‘stretched into a smile that seemed to have been ironed there’.

There is a temptation to try to identify some of his creations with well-known personalities who frequent the Dublin social or literary scene. The plot is slight – the book is more an examination of the mores of society and of the limitless ways in which people inflict hurt on one another, whether intentionally or not. He paints a picture of a small incestuous society where people are both watching and watching out for one another.

In this novel Hugh Leonard displays his mastery in being able to take an insignificant event or accident which actually happened and let his elaborate imagination develop the what might have beens, the what should have beens and what could have beens of the situation. He does this using satire, puns and humour and above all his authentic Dublin accent which never leaves 'a good turn unstoned'.

Reviewed by Marie, a Clare County Library staff member.