It is one of the books that reveal their quality from the first line. On every page there is that immediacy all good writing has.


I have to confess that The Ginger Man has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years, and until now I hadn’t been all that interested in picking it up. My (ginger) partner picked it up in the charity shop for the name, and although I had a flick through, it’s been gathering dust since. Then, this last banned books week, I heard it mentioned a few times and ended up looking it up to find that it was banned in Ireland and the US for obscenity. It’s also sold 45 million copies worldwide, and has never been out of print.

The Ginger Man is a peculiar little book. When I first started I had shades of Orwell, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. This may be just because the books were released at similar times, as J. P. Donleavy has an odd, stilting prose for this book. Short sentences, prose that reads like myriad thoughts crammed together, and constant switching between first person and third person made me very disconcerted, and it took a while to get into.

I hate Sebastian Dangerfield, I’d just like that to be out there. What a hideous, horrible character. He’s like a grown up version of Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. Assonance in the names, coincidence? I think not! Seriously, I spent most of the book wishing I could reach into the pages and slap his face really hard. He’s a horrible, misogynistic, slimy, unpleasant streak of a man!

This always leaves me with a dilemma, do I enjoy a book when I hate the protagonist so much? I’m glad I read it, and it got me asking myself some interesting questions about the relationships between men and women, and how that has changed over the years, and how in some ways it hasn’t changed at all. Or at least it’s easy to see how many of today’s attitudes come about when you consider how recently, in the grand scheme of things, this book was written.

Am I glad I read it? I certainly am,. Did I enjoy it? I’m still not sure. It’s nice when characters evoke such strong feelings, but I find it very unsettling when I can’t find any light in the darkness of a character’s heart.


Reviewed by:

Kath Cross

Added 20th June 2015

More Reviews By
Kath Cross