Winner of the Whitbread Literary Award for Best Novel: In the wake of the Great War, a young woman’s life is turned upside down when she befriends a soldier of the grisly struggle on Ireland’s horizon
Nancy lives with her aunt and ailing grandfather in a seaside town not far from Dublin. Eighteen and about to go to university, Nancy has spent her summer consumed in part by unrequited thoughts of her first love, Harry, a man eight years her senior. Nancy’s one haven is the beach, where she has discovered an abandoned hut and claimed it as her personal sanctuary. One day, she arrives there to find that her inner sanctum has been invaded by a grizzled and desperate-looking man whom she names Cassius. An IRA foot soldier on the run, Cassius becomes something of a father figure to Nancy, and in a pivotal moment she agrees to deliver a message for him—a decision that will change her life forever.
A beautiful coming-of-age novel set against the nascent Irish Troubles, The Old Jest is an award-winning portrait of loyalty, loss, and of one fateful encounter that propels a young woman into adulthood.