This edgy 1961 farce from a master of Irish comic fiction is set in Dublin at the turn of the century, where orphaned brothers Finbarr and Manus endure living with their stingy, Dickensian half-uncle Collopy, withstand the abuses and privations of Catholic school, and choke down their own feelings of futility. The brothers look for a way out, and Manus's moneymaking scheme is to sell distance-learning courses on subjects he knows nothing about. When Manus helps their parish priest Father Fahrt and Uncle Collopy finally obtain an audience with the Pope, their impassioned plea to the pontiff is to advocate public restrooms for ladies.
"The dialogue is first-rate, as is the Dublin atmosphere; and some of [O'Brien's] characters are as rich and yeasty as good porter foaming out of the jar."—Times Literary Supplement