THE period is 2006. Those of you who smiled at the claims that Ireland was "one of the world's wealthiest nations" will simply gorge on this piece of savage satire. Land around south Co Dublin is going for around €17.5m an acre; houses in ritzy areas going for around €5.5m. The book opens in one such house. The occupier is very jittery. He will be even more jittery by the book's close. He drives a Porsche 911, has five Jack B Yeats works, and a bronze sculpture by an Italian whose name he can never remember, but the price of which he will never forget. He's involved in plans to build a €350m development seven miles from O'Connell Street. It is put on hold when it is revealed the site is a pre-historic settlement. He develops a stress-related illness. His missus wants to move to an island he bought her. She will wait until he is dead. Of course.
THE CHARACTERS in O'Brien's debut novel are at that stupid stage in life when it is easy to sneer at the rest of humanity. It is packed with peevishness and jealousy. A quartet of students is holed up in a cottage in the town of Divott on the Welsh border. One of them, Martin, runs a local literary festival. Both he and Alex – a thoroughly nasty creation – are about to launch a literary magazine. Another of them, Jane, gets a piece published in the Times Literary Supplement and naturally the others begrudge her bit of success. A huge amount of funny woodbines are smoked, coke is sniffed, a nearby pub proves very welcoming, and a visit by some Americans means that little writing gets finished, never mind published. One scene, in which drinks are spiked leading to an orgy and a death, is told in a remarkably detailed fashion.
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