Bishop’s Delight by Patrick McGinley is a delightful and deceptively easy read. On the surface it’s the story of a missing Taoiseach and two journalists determined to find out what happened to him.
In this case, the Taoiseach is Jim Maguire — a foundling child adopted by a political family who grows up to become the Irish prime minister. Maguire is a francophile. His heroes include General de Gaulle and Montaigne, the French philosopher, statesman and author renowned for his ability to blend intellectual knowledge and personal storytelling. An outsider, a diarist, and a man with complicated private life, Maguire’s political life has exposed him to potential security risks but it’s his personal life that is of most interest to the journalists.
Woody and Sweetman are rivals. Sweetman is a sensationalist whereas Woody writes for posterity. Each is writing a biography of Maguire with Woody choosing as his model Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians.
Strachey along with Montaigne and La Rochefoucauld are among a wide cast of literary and philosophical personalities referenced throughout Bishop’s Delight adding insight and entertainment for the reader.
For the most part, the story is told from Woody’s point of view. As he and Sweetman investigate the disappearance, Maguire’s private life increasingly impacts on Woody’s turbulent love life. And one of Maguire’s relationships holds the key to the mysterious Bishop’s Delight.
Love and marriage are strong themes in Bishop’s Delight alongside politics, philosophy and writing. Literary references abound in this story which, rich in dark humour, is an entertaining and fun read.
An excellent choice for book clubs, Bishop’s Delight is also a novel to share with the philosophers and literary lovers in your life.
Bishop’s Delight by Patrick McGinley is published by New Island Books. 978-1-84840-491-5.
[Disclosure: An ARC was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review].