Almost every line, pared down to its essential components, seems cut short by an omission, haunted by something unsaid. Large gaps between the paragraphs entrench this sense of pervasive silence. At times such muteness feels like it’s been lifted straight from Beckett – without the humour and self-consciousness. But when Beyond the Sea evades this derivative modernist register, its pages are alive with elegance and insight.
“You could not have predicted so many things would happen at once,” muses Bolivar, of the speed and comprehensiveness of the disaster, the way reality can so suddenly cease to be what it was a minute ago and become something completely different. This could easily have been one of those novels about what it is to be a man, where men are defined as those whose comprehension of their own circumstances is limited by appetite, material need and a tendency not to talk much. Instead, it turns into something more lyrical but at the same time colder and more shocking, much more self-aware. Contemporary Irish fiction prizes delivery, daring and an implicit trust in the reader: Lynch demonstrates a control over his ideas that comes from a pure lyrical telling, a speech act that, if you let it, will take you anywhere. Beyond the Sea is frightening but beautiful.
This is a spare and often precise novel. It attains a certain lyricism that is a testament to Lynch’s restraint and eye for a sharp image. Observing the stasis and sudden event of life on a lost boat, far at sea, it takes on a dreamlike, even hallucinatory quality towards the end, and earns this through the clarity of its vision... Lynch’s writing is, in places, a little florid. This isn’t always a bad thing (there are times when the language attains a poetic intensity that is unusual and well-earned); however, at times this tendency towards slightly purple prose leads him to make awkward constructions. There are, for example, many slightly grating uses of “upon”... What Lynch gives us is a good story, though it is not gripping enough in its plot for the story alone to make it memorable. Its prose is lucid, but is not concerned with depth of thought in a way that would excuse the lack of event. This is not to say that the novel isn’t solid, or that it isn’t enjoyable, but it does mean that the capacity for the narrative to make a lasting impact is unfortunately limited.
[Lynch's] novels are artistic creations, often based on historic events, in which the author doesn’t intrude. His previous novel, Grace, was inspired by the Famine, and Beyond the Sea is based on an extraordinary true story. The title of this absorbing book is an evocative one for the dwindling number who remember the Bobby Darin song. But Lynch is not interested in torch songs or even Sandra Dee; his concerns are more elemental... Lynch’s concern is not only the minutiae of survival or men battling the elements, although his account of these is exciting and persuasive. His main interest lies in the existential struggle within: how men handle themselves in extremis... His fourth novel has echoes of Melville, Dostoyevsky and William Golding — the nickname of Lynch’s protagonist is Porky, perhaps a nod towards Piggy in Lord of the Flies. But the literary work it most invokes is Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with its theme of crime and punishment.