(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Trick of the Ga Bolga is set in the author’s native County Donegal, an area renowned for its remoteness and its stark natural beauty, features which are given a variety of emphases in this elaborate text. These emphases are largely the result of the novel’s action being focused on an outsider, Rufus George Coote, whose remoteness in the face of the natural is one of the main interests of the story.

Finding himself surprisingly stranded in Dublin at the outbreak of World War II, Coote, equally surprisingly, decides to wait out the conflict in a part of the British Isles farthest away from it. At first, his apparent desire for peace is fulfilled. He fits in with ease in the fictional but entirely typical locality of Garaross—one of the novel’s subsidiary pleasures is the obvious relish with which the author draws on his own boyhood memories of Donegal to provide typicality of locale. Coote fishes, observes nature, converses with the neighbors, and in general seems to be in the enviable position of having world enough and time. The contrast between his fortunate neutrality and the conditions endured by a friend in the armed forces with whom Coote corresponds is blatantly obvious. The author’s use of this contrast can only be excused on the grounds that it reinforces the reader’s endorsement of Coote’s appreciation of his fortunate circumstances.

Such reinforcement, however, is merely an aspect of this novel’s duplicitous strategies. As Coote finds out, it may be possible to act neutral, but it is not possible...

(The entire section is 637 words.)