Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307
OUT AFTER DARK is a brilliant and skillfully written account of one boy coming of age in the small Irish town of Dalkey. Leonard displays a brilliant command not only of the quirks necessary to bring each character alive but also of settings with which the characters vividly interact. Equally impressive is the distinctly drawn dialogue which makes each character appear real.
Leonard sets his story during one to the most tumultuous periods of life: adolescence. Jack Keyes and his friends are in the midst of exploring their desires for money, jobs, and loss of virginity. Helping them are a series of compelling characters including the rebel-with-a-cause clergyman, Father Kearney, the fearsomely bilious Father Creedon, and Jack’s mother, whose attention is held solely by cheap romance novels.
But it is Jack himself who emerges as the most compelling character. A budding novelist, playwright, actor, and movie fan, Jack filters his experiences through his interests. Situations such as his first date, first job (at Columbia Pictures), and subsequent employment as a civil servant, for instance, are told as if they were scenes from a 1930’s Marlene Dietrich movie, Hollywood Western, or Warner Bros. prison picture.
Yet, often, the experiences are left unembellished, allowing the reader to enjoy the simplicity of their telling, their emotional complexity, and, often, their inherent comedy. Consider Jack’s many frustrated attempts at seduction, including one with a girl who is revealed to be the daughter of the Belfast Police Chief.
Equally amusing are his experiences as an actor in amateur theater group that produces stale French-drawing room romances and English melodramas. Regardless of the situation of experience, Leonard expertly focuses on the aspects that move Jack toward adulthood. Leonard fashions an amusing cast of characters and poignant drama into a rich and ultimately moving account of one boy’s experiences growing up.
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