Valiant GentlemenSabina Murray
6 July 2017
Published by Grove Press
6 July 2017
Published by Grove Press
In prose that is darkly humorous and alive with detail, Valiant Gentlemen reimagines the lives and intimate friendships of humanitarian and Irish patriot Roger Casement; his closest friend, Herbert Ward; and Ward’s extraordinary wife, the Argentinian-American heiress Sarita Sanford.
Valiant Gentlemen takes the reader on an intimate journey, from Ward and Casement’s misadventurous youth in the Congo – where, among other things, they bore witness to an Irish whiskey heir’s taste for cannibalism – to Ward’s marriage to Sarita and their flourishing family life in France, to Casement’s covert homosexuality and enduring nomadic lifestyle floating between his work across the African continent and involvement in Irish politics.
When World War I breaks out, Casement and Ward’s longstanding political differences finally come to a head and when Ward and his teenage sons leave to fight on the frontlines for England, Casement begins to work alongside the Germans to help free Ireland from British rule. What results is tragic and riveting, as both men are forced to confront notions of love and betrayal in the face of the vastly different tracks their lives have taken.
Murray's writing is super, full of humour and wisdom. In her hands, Ward, Casement and Sarita are vital, rounded characters. This fictionalised account of their intertwined lives is impressive.
[Murray's] entertaining and historically persuasive novels blends the personal with the political... [the] novel transports us back to the multiple milieus in which Casement and his friends operated.... [she] displays a deft touch in managing harmoniously these abrupt shifts in locale and time. We are never confused as to where we are and with whom.
The best thing Valiant Gentlemen does - so subtly that you aren't always aware of it - is trace the erosive process by which its characters transform from young, seemingly immortal crusaders to battered, doubt-plagued figures, compromised in both health and spirit... [a] wise, illuminating novel.
A novel as vigorous, audacious and unpredictable as Casement himself . . . [Murray] translates the past into a present as immediate as it is unnerving.
New York Times Book Review
[Murray] ingeniously links two young friends . . . ultimately the novel is an imaginative exploration of the tragedy of lost friendship.
Los Angeles Times
Readers will claim this masterpiece of a novel is a big book, and in terms of being Sabina Murray's magnum opus, it certainly is. But Valiant Gentlemen was far too short for my passions, and when I consumed the last page I felt bereft for days, silently begging the author for more. On this side of the Atlantic, Murray is our Hilary Mantel.Bob Shacochis, author of THE WOMAN WHO LOST HER SOUL
Sabina Murray's Valiant Gentlemen is an adventure set amid the secret history of the modern world - the personal revolutions inside the revolutionary Roger Casement, a man who took part in or bore witness to so much of the history we live with now, brought to vivid, thrilling life here. This novel is made out of history but is every bit a modern marvel.Alexander Chee, author of THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
Brimming with exquisite detail and clever humour . . . [Murray] maintains an impressive balance of historical accuracy and dramatic momentum, crafting a stellar fiction that shows how the grand course of history can be shaped by the smallest disagreements between friends.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
While Murray's work...is often described with the weak catchall 'historical fiction,'it is more nearly about the tensions of colonization.
That the novel can be so despairingly honest about a writer's limitations while still be so entertaining says a lot about Murray's considerable talent... It is as much a novel about the joys and difficulties of friendship as it is about the larger historical events that have thrown these two particular friends together and that also threaten to tear them apart.
Valiant Gentlemen recreates an entire, magnificent era, exploring identity, friendship, marriage, love and grief, tracing the days of two great men from passionate youth to disenchanted old age.
New York Journal of Books