Book Review: After This Our Exile by Aubrey Malone

Dermot Carmody

After This Our Exile is a novel by Mayo-born author Aubrey Malone. Malone, a freelance journalist, has lived in Dublin since 1970, was a teacher for some fourteen years and started writing books in 1996. He has published several books of poetry with Belfast publishers Lapwing, and other novels including The Things That Were and A Nursing Life, as well as a number of biographies and film books.
After This Our Exile is the story of Brian Kilcoyne’s journey from Loughrea in Galway, through student life in Dublin, to a spell of travelling in Europe and the USA and back to Galway again. It also deals with a restless emotional journey after he loses his beloved mother.
He struggles with the vagaries of his alcoholic father, Bartley, and has a difficult relationship with Bartley’s partner Angela and her over-fussy and doomed efforts to somehow take the place of Brian’s dead mother.
Brian leaves behind his sweetheart Jennifer when he decides to study at UCD. A sense of his alienation follows him as he deals with university life and the city. He quickly becomes disillusioned with the reality of academia and his education continues largely through the medium of other experiences.
He has a book of poetry published and forges an unlikely relationship with a girl who is a drug addict. All the time there’s the distant presence of the absence of Jennifer, and the open question of whether they will ever resume their relationship.
Seeking an escape from the disillusionment of college life, he travels around Europe and ultimately drops out of UCD and travels to New York. He has a genuinely tender relationship with Mia, who is working as a waitress while she plans to travel to Africa. He wonders if he’s just part of this transitional period in Mia’s life, while at the same time the open-ended question of Jennifer is always a presence in the back of his mind.
Returning to Ireland and to Galway, Brian finds himself still in an unsettled emotional landscape as he struggles with his relationships with his father, his brother Derek and with Jennifer. Can he find a way through this maze and ultimately be at peace with himself?
Aubrey Malone’s understated style and dialogue-driven plot, along with character development work well to make this novel roll along and the book is leavened by some well-observed evocations of place and atmosphere.
After This Our Exile is published by Penniless Press and is available through online book retailers including Amazon and Lulu.