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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Son Called Gabriel

A Son Called Gabriel by Damian McNicholl

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful:

April 7, 2006

What dooms "A Son Called Gabriel" is a combination or too much ambiguity at the end and too little focus throughout. By the unsatisfying end, I never felt any connection to the book or to the relatively flat characters. It might just be that I've read far better books on the subject of a young man grappling with his sexual identity.

I agree with another reviewer who remarked this entire book could have been condensed into a Part I with a Part II and possibly Part III that get to the meatier times in Gabriel's life after he leaves for college. That Gabriel plays with girls and dolls and wants to be a hairdresser at 7-9 is interesting--albeit stereotypical--but doesn't warrant 100 pages of development. The early teen years also don't add a lot. Really nothing gets moving in this story until Gabriel's 16-18 or so and by then it was almost over.

There's a lot of lip service given to the Catholic-Protestant "Troubles" in the 60s, 70s, but it's never clear how any of this really affects Gabriel's development. Since he's boyfriend to a Protestant girl, I'd have to say the political tensions didn't matter a whole lot to him. In which case, it doesn't add much to the story.

At the end of course there's the big Scarlet Letter/Empire Strikes Back twist, which only distracts readers from the fact that the ending raises more questions than it answers. What will happen to Gabriel in London? Will he and Fiona stay together? Was Father Brendan a homosexual? We'll never know unless there's a sequel in the works.

As for the writing, it was average. I thought the author was guilty of run-on sentences at a few points, but that's just me. There wasn't enough scene-setting. Instead, we get a lot of rushing through test preparations/results and repetitive encounters with school bullies.

As a result of all the rushing around, there wasn't time to really develop the characters. The rest of Gabriel's family isn't much different than any sitcom family because there wasn't time to really settle in and flesh out their personalities into more than one dimension.

That is all.

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