While held hostage by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen in Beirut, Brian Keenan was visited and sustained by the presence of Turlough O'Carolan - the legendary blind Irish harper of the seventeenth century. This novel is thus a re-creation of an extraordinary historical story and also, obliquely, a parallel life - another life imprisoned, shaped by the dark. Narrated largely by O'Carolan from his death-bed, Turlough powerfully brings to life a lost Ireland of famine and disease, eviction and oppression. Stalking through the broken and dispossessed comes Turlough O'Carolan, the musical prodigy, blinded by smallpox and now an itinerant harper, lauded by aristocracy and a hero to his people. His Rabelaisian desire for drink and women is counter-pointed by his artistic struggle towards the great music and some kind of inner peace.