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Last update - Friday, April 1, 2011, 22:39 By Metro Éireann

By John Toomey (Dalkey Archive)

I had been putting off the reading of this book for some time now on account of its sterile textbook-like look. When I did finally start it, I almost didn’t see it through, for I did not see the need to strain my brain to comprehend its twisting story. But if I had I would have missed the gem that is Sleepwalker.
Stuart Byrne is a smart, educated 25-year-old south Dublin man with a good job and an upmarket family to boot. Having everything at his disposal apparently makes it even easier to get whatever he wants in our world of today. When the author establishes these facts early on, the reader is now positioned to watch Stuart sleepwalk through life, until he is forced by circumstances seemingly beyond his control to step back and take closer stock of his life.
On the surface the subject matter of this offering was tough to pin down, but John Toomey does a good job of fleshing out the skeleton of the story – the apathy and disillusionment of modern life that has produced a pedestrian populace, materialistically gluttonous. It’s a generation for whom life has no meaning, as they genuinely do not see their relevance in the greater scheme of the world. Even in the face of achievements, they still harbour what Toomey calls a “vague feeling of potential unrealised”. The message that Toomey hammers out is that only self-determination and a strong moral fibre can break this deception.
The author is a teacher of English – that accounts for the very erudite language in the text, which can be difficult at times, but mostly apt as it’s employed unflinchingly to skewer the pretensions of the modern world and express its didactic message. This is assisted by a finely aligned story and an array of characters who execute the job with aplomb.
“History can continue to guide long after the finite relevance of advice has been exhausted,” the book’s narrator says. Having had the benefit of reading Sleepwalker, I’d say that most of us must be awake and very alert, otherwise we’ll fail to learn from history like Stuart does.

Ifedinma Dimbo

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