Set in Dublin between Easter 1915 and Easter 1916, the time of Ireland's fearless and foolish uprising, 'At Swim, Two Boys' charts the love story between two young boys; Jim, a naive and reticent scholar, the younger son of a foolish, aspirant corner shopkeeper, Mr Mack; and Doyler, the dark rough diamond son of Mr Mack's old army pal. Doyler once might have made a scholar like Jim, now he is but a cleaner of privies, and what is worse, a socialist, decrying God and the King.
But the future is rosy, Mr Mack is sure of it. His elder son Gordie is bound for glory fighting the Hun for the British Empire and he has such plans for his little corner shop, such plans for his youngest son. But Mr Mack does not appreciate how the political landscape is changing, how events beyond his control are about to envelop them, nor does he realise the depth of Jim's burgeoning relationship with Doyler.
Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the scandalous nude, the two boys meet day after day, and it is there that they make a pact; that in a year's time, Easter 1916, they will jump off the Forty Foot and swim to the glow of the Muglins light and the rock on which it stands. There they will raise the Irish flag, and claim it for their country and for their love for each other. But these are turbulent times. Both they and their Ireland are coming of age, and much happens that might thwart this innocent wish.
Ten years in the writing, 'At Swim, Two Boys' reveals an artist whose mastery is not simply of his craft but of his realm and the people who live and breathe in it. His view of the world is of itself, and like no other, and yet the novel shares those elements that are the hallmarks of all great books; the breadth of its canvas, the skill of its brush, and above all, the shining light of its humanity.