Monday, October 17, 2005

Thomas O’Malley’s In the Province of Saints (2005)
John McGaherns Memoir (2005)
Patrick O'Keeffes The Hill Road (2005)

Stories celebrating the rural Irish way of life

IF you are game for another bout of tales of sad Irish boyhoods of grinding poverty and destitution set against the Troubles of the 1970s, Thomas O’Malley’s In the Province of Saints (2005) is one heartbreaking read. In prose rich and poetic, O’Malley weaves the heartbreaking story of the slow disintegration of a family through a boy’s eyes. Read it and weep!

John McGahern is today one of Ireland’s finest writers of fiction. His books are always worth waiting for. His latest, Memoir (2005), is a childhood memoir, detailing his discovery of literature at a young age and his decision to become a writer. This is his first work of nonfiction (and possibly the best book he has ever written), and like his novels and short stories, his memoir is a grim meditation on Irish life in all its emotional intensity, written in lush and descriptive prose. One of the most moving moments in this memoir is the early death of his kind-hearted mother: “I remembered her in the world, walking those lanes to school. To Liscairn, to Beaghmore, to Aughawillan; on the train, in Maggie’s, going from shop to shop by her side in the town, watching with her the great fires of sticks in Aughawillan evenings, the flames leaping around the walls and ceilings. She was gone where I could not follow. I would never lay eyes again on her face.”

“I was nine the year winter came in spring, and Cait Delacey's mother, Mag of Slievecorragh, died; the winter had come and gone and surprised us with its return - sneaking furtively back to us like a fox during the night. The storm turned the sky black, the mercury plummeted, and everything beyond New Rowan froze. The snow fell so heavily and quickly it was like a hand wiping the land of every distinguishable feature. In the morning the fields were blanketed by soft-packed snow that sparkled all the way to town.

“No one was prepared for snow, most especially the distraught farmers. The sudden deep chill killed livestock as well as crops. In the morning the small frozen bodies of lambs lay shrouded in white all across the hillsides and fields; clusters of sheep, their fleece now suddenly and noticeably yellow against the backdrop of white, moved in and around them bleating softly. I stared from my bedroom window, disturbed but in awe of the storm's strange beauty.”
Thomas O'Malley, in In the Province of Saints (2005)

“The fields between the lakes are small, separated by thick hedges of whitethorn, ash, blackthorn, alder, sally, rowan, wild cherry, green oak, sycamore, and the lanes that link them under the Iron Mountains are narrow, often with high banks. The hedges are the glory of these small fields, especially when the hawthorn foams into streams of blossom each May and June. The sally is the first tree to green and the first to wither, and the rowan berries are an astonishing orange in the light from the lakes every September. These hedges are full of mice and insects and small birds, and sparrowhawks can be seen hunting all through the day. In their branches the wild woodbine and dog rose give off a deep fragrance in summer evenings, and on their banks grow the foxglove, the wild strawberry, primrose and fern and vetch among the crawling briars.” John McGahern, in Memoir (2005)

AN evocative début collection of four novella-length Irish stories on love and abandonment, death, unfulfilled yearnings, opportunities lost, greed and the difficulty of forgiveness, set against the timeless and beguiling rural Irish landscape, isolated in a cloistered world of its own. With much skill and dexterity and a lyrical prose style verging on the poetic, Ireland-born Patrick O'Keeffe captures not only the elements and nuances of the hauntingly beautiful Irish countryside but the ordinariness of lives that people this landscape as well. The Hill Road is both an accomplished début and a well-realised work of fiction.

He would walk in from work, enter the kitchen without a word, a deadened, distant and glassy look in his eyes, and his wife and son and the objects around him, such as doors or stairs, that she had spent all day polishing, were invisible, he, impervious to the four sturdy walls that held him, the woman and the boy who loved and wanted only to please him. Patrick OKeeffe, in The Hill Road (2005)

McGAHERN John [1934-] Novelist, short-story writer, playwright. Born in Dublin, Ireland. NOVELS That They May Face the Rising Sun (2001: published as By the Lake in the U.S. in 2002); Amongst Women (1990: winner of the 1990 Irish Times/Aer Lingus Literary Award; shortlisted for the 1990 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Pornographer (1979); The Leavetaking (1974); The Dark (1965); The Barracks (1963: winner of the 1962 A.E. Memorial Award and the 1964 Arts Council Macauley Fellowship) STORIES The Collected Stories (1992); High Ground (1985); Getting Through (1978); Nightlines (1970) PLAYS The Power of Darkness (1991); The Rockingham Shoot (1987); Swallows (1975); Sinclair (1971) MEMOIR Memoir (pub. in the U.S. in 2006 as All Will Be Well: A Memoir) (2005)

OKEEFFE Patrick [197X-] Short-story writer. Born in County Limerick, Ireland. STORIES The Hill Road (2005)

O’MALLEY Thomas [19XX-] Novelist. Born in the U.S. NOVEL In the Province of Saints (2005)


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