Séamus Joyce, a former senior civil servant, returns to Dublin from self-imposed exile in Germany. He has been engaged as a consultant by Finer Small Campuses to evaluate his alma mater, King’s College Dublin, a third-rate, third-level institution.
Millar, himself an Irish academic, satirizes both Irish higher-level education and the brave new world wrought by the Celtic Tiger economy. It’s a different world from the depressed, inward-looking Dublin that Joyce moved to as a student. The plot moves efficiently and some of the characters are, well, characters. Not Joyce though: he’s insecure and introverted, still recovering from the events that led to the breakup of his marriage and losing his old position.
Amusingly, King’s College Dublin was invented by Millar’s mother, the novelist Eilís Dillon in her 1956 novel, Death in the Quadrangle.