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The Irish Novel 1960 - 2010

by George O’Brien

Publication Year: 2012

The increased visibility of the Irish novel in recent years has been one of the outstanding developments in contemporary Irish literature. This development has coincided with a period of significant change in Ireland as a whole. The Irish Novel 1960-2010 is the first book to study how the novel has been involved in discussing the seeds of change and the response to change as it evolved. The result is a wide-ranging survey, accessible and rewarding for both the student and the general public. Original and insightful it is written with a distinctive blend of sympathy and engagement. The Irish Novel 1960-2010 is an invaluable guide to an important cultural phenomenon.Authors covered:Edna O’Brien, Sam Hanna Bell, John Broderick, Michael Farrell, Samuel Beckett, Brian Moore, Aidan Higgins, Flann O’Brien, Anthony C. West, James Plunkett, J.G. Farrell,Francis Stuart, Jennifer Johnston, Vincent Banville, Ian Cochrane, Maurice Leitch, Caroline Blackwood, Benedict Kiely, Patrick McGinley, John McGahern, Julia O’Faolain, John Banville, Dorothy Nelson, Bernard MacLaverty, Desmond Hogan, Mary Leland, J.M. O’Neill, Carlo Gébler, William Trevor, Timothy O’Grady, Dermot Bolger, Hugo Hamilton, Patrick McCabe, Roddy Doyle, Dermot Healy, Emma Donoghue, Seamus Deane, Anne Haverty, Joseph O’Connor, Glenn Patterson, Mary Morrissy, Eoin McNamee, Deirdre Madden, Keith Ridgway, Colm Tóibín, Sebastian Barry, Gerard Donovan, Anne Enright, Joseph O’Neill, Colum McCann, Paul Murray

Published by: Cork University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgements

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pp. vii-viii

I have the great good fortune to have friends like John Evans, Eamon Grennan, Vincent Hurley, Máire Kennedy, Tim Meagher, Denis Sampson and Terry Winch. Many grateful thanks to them for all their hospitality, encouragement, help and support over the years. Terry’s input early on was just what I needed. ...

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xxix

If there is one literary landmark more prominent than another in Irish culture over the past fifty years, it is the growth and development of the novel. Half a century ago, Seán O’Faoláin could note, with some justification, ‘the comparative failure of the Irish novel’.1 No such statement could be made today. ...

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1960: Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls

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pp. 1-4

This novel’s principal events consist of breakdown, rejection, leavetaking and abandonment. Punctuating Caithleen (Cait) Brady’s childhood and adolescence, these discontinuities map onto the known world a private landscape of loss. Her feckless father – who, in his fondness for gambling and drink, ...

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1961: Sam Hanna Bell, The Hollow Ball

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pp. 4-7

Belfast is depressed, and life there tends to run in narrow channels. Work is scarce and opportunity rare. Economic insecurity is endemic and breeds various repressive forms of social diffidence and passivity. In most minds, the need to hold a job is paramount. So, when sixteen-year-old David Minnis ...

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1962: John Broderick, The Fugitives

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pp. 8-11

The London assassination by the IRA of the Northern Ireland Under Secretary makes fugitives of Lily Fallon, her brother Paddy, who was one of the assassins, and Hugh Ward, Paddy’s IRA handler. Immediately following the murder, Paddy seeks out Lily, instead of following instructions, an early indication ...

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1963: Michael Farrell, Thy Tears Might Cease

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pp. 11-14

The opening part of Thy Tears Might Cease is entitled ‘The White Blackbird’, and that is a fitting description of the protagonist, Martin Matthew Reilly. But the phrase might also be applied to the town of Glenkilly, whose variegated social and political populace is depicted with painstaking relish. ...

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1964: Samuel Beckett, How It Is

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pp. 14-17

While retaining identifiable links with his other post-war fiction, How It Is, true to Beckett’s restlessly innovative imagination, also breaks new ground in form and language. Such is this work’s novelty, indeed, that an approach to it which relies on plot summary and character analysis will fall well short of being an adequate accounting. ...

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1965: Brian Moore, The Emperor of Ice-Cream

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pp. 17-20

Seventeen-year-old Gavin Burke is a failure. This is not only how he sees himself. So does his family. He has failed his exams and will not be following in the footsteps of his father and his brother Owen in reading law at Queen’s University, and he is only notionally studying for an alternative exam which may secure him university entrance. ...

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1966: Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down

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pp. 21-24

The novel opens in 1937, and ‘The world was in a bad way’ (10). In Spain, the Civil War is going poorly for the Republican side. That much is public knowledge. Helen Langrishe learns it in the evening paper as, feeling almost suffocated and beset by the grinding noise of the bus’s wheels, she travels home to Springfield House from Dublin. ...

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1967: Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

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pp. 24-27

In Ernest Hemingway’s 1936 short story ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’, the dying protagonist, Harry, observes that the banal image of ‘two bicycle policemen’ can connote death as readily as the traditional scythe and skull. Imagine, then, the effect a third policeman might have. ...

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1968: Anthony C. West, As Towns with Fire

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pp. 28-31

During the Second World War, West was a member of the Royal Air Force and saw intense action in the bombing of German cities as a navigator in the Pathfinder squadron led by Guy Gibson of ‘Dambusters’ fame. This experience provides As Towns with Fire with a number of impressive action sequences, ...

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1969: James Plunkett, Strumpet City

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pp. 31-35

This is how Strumpet City begins. Seven years later, the novel ends in the place where the king arrived, but now there is little to celebrate. Fitz – the central character, Bob Fitzpatrick – is shipping out for England, where he plans to join the army. This outcome is a far cry from the opening picture of unity and amity. ...

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1970: J.G. Farrell, Troubles

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pp. 35-38

The year is 1919. Major Brendan Archer has survived the First World War – in a manner of speaking. Released from hospital, though still psychologically frail, he makes his way to the Majestic Hotel, an enormous pile of over three hundred rooms, on the shores of the Irish Sea at Kilnalough, County Wexford. ...

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1971: Francis Stuart, Black List, Section H

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pp. 38-42

But although the terminal, the violent, the deliquescent and the delinquent are all very much part of the story Troubles tells, the novel is not merely a monitory treatment of either the birth of an independent Ireland or of the old order passing. The work’s significance lies not only in its presentation of the narrative materials, ...

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1972: Jennifer Johnston, The Captains and the Kings

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pp. 42-46

Charles Prendergast is an old soldier who is fading away in Kill House, the County Wicklow property he has inherited from his family, though he has never felt at home there. Not that he has felt at home anywhere else, his career following service in the First World War having been essentially one of travel, ...

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1973: Vincent Banville, An End to Flight

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pp. 46-49

The town of Ogundizzy in Biafra (the former province of eastern Nigeria) may have a school, a hospital and the Welfare Hotel, but as a domicile – a place to settle in, a community with a future – it represents one of the senses of a dead end that the novel’s title connotes. ...

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1974: Ian Cochrane, Gone in the Head

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pp. 49-52

The Boodie family has just moved from rural Heathermoy to a new house in a housing estate on the fringe of an unnamed Northern Ireland village. The estate’s location is so marginal that the road leading to it is unpaved, and like a lot of these public housing developments, North and South, the place is neither in the town nor in the country. ...

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1975: Maurice Leitch, Stamping Ground

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pp. 52-56

The Valley is the setting of Stamping Ground, a location evidently close to the County Antrim towns of Ballycastle and Ballyclare. It is been better if we never had gone out in the first place’ (136). It is difficult to disagree with him. ...

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1976: Caroline Blackwood, The Stepdaughter

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pp. 56-60

J, the narrator of this offbeat epistolary novella, has immured herself in a Manhattan high-rise apartment with her four-year-old daughter Sally Anne, her stepdaughter Renata, and a French au pair, Monique. A kind of valedictory offering, Monique has been sent from Paris by J’s former husband, Arnold, a lawyer. ...

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1977: Benedict Kiely, Proxopera

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pp. 60-63

This novella opens with an act of trespass. The Binchey family – ex-schoolmaster protagonist, his son Robert and Robert’s wife and children – return home from a holiday in Donegal to find the protagonist’s house taken over by three masked terrorists. Their plan is to hold the younger members of the family hostage ...

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1978: Patrick McGinley, Bogmail

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pp. 63-66

The subtitle of Bogmail is ‘A Novel with Murder’, and it begins and ends with unexpected, though not unplanned, deaths. From the outset, it is clear that the protagonist, Tim Roarty – an impotent, alcoholic publican, who is also a spoiled priest and a lover of Schumann ...

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1979: John McGahern, The Pornographer

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pp. 67-70

There are two sides to The Pornographer. One deals with an affair the thirty-year-old eponymous but otherwise unnamed narrator has with Josephine, who is some years his senior and whom he eventually impregnates. The other has to do with his Aunt Mary, hospitalised in Dublin with terminal cancer, ...

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1980: Julia O’Faoláin, No Country for Young Men

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pp. 70-75

The possibility of such spiritual reintegration is also borne out by Aunt Mary’s funeral, whose ritualistic and communal elements override in significance its religious dimension. In examining how ‘The superstitious, the poetic, the religious are all made safe within the social, given a tangible form’ (238), ...

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1981: John Banville, Kepler

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pp. 75-78

The Holy Roman Empire is entering its last days. The build-up to the Thirty Years War is well advanced. Religious sectarianism is rapidly becoming more pronounced and more vindictive. Employment prospects for Johannes Kepler, mathematician and astronomer, are not promising, unless he is willing to confine his work ...

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1982: Dorothy Nelson, In Night’s City

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pp. 79-82

There is a point in the childhood of Sara Kavanagh, the protagonist of In Night’s City, where she says, ‘What I really wanted was to pretend I wasn’t real’ (30). But, though we are taken into the deep recesses of Sara’s consciousness, and even though the novel’s last words are delivered by her alter ego, Maggie, there is no use pretending. ...

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1983: Bernard MacLaverty, Cal

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pp. 82-85

Nineteen-year-old Cal McCrystal is on the dole. To the annoyance of his father, Shamie, he lacks the stomach to take the only job available, which is in the abattoir of their provincial Northern Ireland town. Shamie and a Provisional IRA operative, Crilly, are the only Catholics working in the abattoir, ...

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1984: Desmond Hogan, A Curious Street

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pp. 86-89

From a brief newspaper report, Jeremy Hitchins, a British soldier serving in Northern Ireland, learns that Alan Mulvanney has killed himself. Jeremy never actually knew Alan, and the suicide did not take place in Northern Ireland but in the victim’s native Athlone, ‘the meanest town in Ireland’ (182). ...

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1985: Mary Leland, The Killeen

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pp. 89-93

A note at the beginning of this novel explains the title. It is a transliteration of a word in Irish for ‘a church yard set apart for infants’, and an additional note mentions a burial place reserved for unbaptised children. In The Killeen, the site in question is in the townland of Adrigole, in west Cork, ...

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1986: J.M. O’Neill, Open Cut

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pp. 93-96

From his very comfortable Highgate ‘little fortress’ (8), Nally is master of all he surveys. He has his greedy fingers in many lucrative pies – trucking, gambling, property – none entirely legal. And he has a network of fixers and enforcers to make sure things go his way without his having to get his hands dirty. ...

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1987: Carlo Gébler, Work and Play

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pp. 96-99

A former law student, now expelled from university for spending his summer term on a London drug binge, Fergus Maguire has returned to Ireland and is recuperating in rural County Wicklow. He is still trying to mend fences with the rest of his family – mother, sister Pippa and highly irate father – who live in Dalkey. ...

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1988: William Trevor, The Silence in the Garden

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pp. 99-103

'The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ William Faulkner’s dictum seems particularly applicable to William Trevor’s Irish novels. In them, the past – and in particular the War of Independence – exerts a complicated influence over the present. The history of that war proves to be a burdensome legacy, ...

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1989: Timothy O’Grady, Motherland

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pp. 103-106

The action of this elaborate historical fantasia begins in Dublin with the obese forty-three-year-old virginal narrator recalling his return to his mother’s apartment to make up with her after a temporary fallingout. He finds the apartment to be a ‘macabre, devastated jungle’ (6), complete with pet monkey and the family turtle, ...

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1990: Dermot Bolger, The Journey Home

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pp. 106-110

Two youngsters are on the run from the authorities, a state which draws attention to the complicated implications of the novel’s title phrase. Francis Hanrahan (Hano) and his girlfriend Cait are the youngsters in question, and how they came to be in flight is interwoven with their present situation, ...

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1991: Hugo Hamilton, The Last Shot

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pp. 110-113

‘A war is only over when the last shot has been fired, and who knows where the last shot of the Second World War was fired?’ (3) This question, posed early on in this soft-spoken, searching treatment of war’s complicated afterlife, reverberates throughout its two interleaved narratives, related but distinct, both set in Germany. ...

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1992: Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy

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pp. 114-117

‘The Butcher Boy’ is a folk song replete with that genre’s familiar themes of love, loss and violence, and one of the most ingenious aspects of this novel is the manner in which it adapts not only these themes to meet its own narrative interests but how the notion of the folk is treated in the process. ...

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1993: Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

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pp. 117-121

Barrytown: the early days. The year is 1968 and Dublin’s outer fringes are beginning to be developed. Where the Clarke family lives is neither urban nor rural but something of a borderland where the old Donnelly farm meets the new Corporation houses before succumbing to them. ...

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1994: Dermot Healy, A Goat’s Song

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pp. 121-125

Mainly set in the Erris peninsula on the remote north-western corner of County Mayo, which is where J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World takes place, A Goat’s Song has for its protagonist a character whom his mother describes as ‘a bit of a playboy’ (267). But that is a very casual description of Jack Ferris. ...

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1995: Emma Donoghue, Hood

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pp. 126-129

Pen O’Grady is grieving. Her lover of thirteen years, Cara Wall, has been killed in a car crash. Pen’s name – the same as that of the female swan – seems to have already inscribed her fate, in the sense that swans are customarily thought of as monogamous. But the novel is not only a swan song; ...

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1996: Seamus Deane, Reading in the Dark

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pp. 129-133

‘I’d switch off the light, get back in bed, and lie there, the book still open, re-imagining all I had read, the various ways the plot might unravel, the novel opening into endless possibilities in the dark’ (20). Such occasions are obviously pleasurable to the nameless young narrator of Reading in the Dark. ...

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1997: Anne Haverty, One Day as a Tiger

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pp. 133-136

Marty Hawkins has a little lamb. He acquires her after abandoning a promising academic career as a historian at Trinity College, Dublin, breaking up with his girlfriend and returning to Foilmore, the family farm, run by his brother, Pierce. Sheep are Pierce’s main farming interest, ...

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1998: Joseph O’Connor, The Salesman

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pp. 136-140

It is the scorching summer of 1994. Young Maeve Sweeney is in a coma, and her father, Billy – the salesman of the title – has decided to kill the person who put her there. This individual is Donal Quinn, a drug-dealer, who with three henchmen attempted to rob the petrol station where Maeve worked. ...

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1999: Glenn Patterson, The International

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pp. 140-144

I wish I could describe for you Belfast as it was then, before it was brought shaking, quaking and laying about it with batons and stones on to the world’s small screens’ (61), says Danny Hamilton, this novel’s gay, eighteen-year-old narrator, a barman at the International Hotel in the heart of the city. ...

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2000: Mary Morrissy, The Pretender

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pp. 144-147

The story told in The Pretender at first glance appears to be quite well known, as three films and many books have already dealt with Anastasia, daughter of the last czar of Russia, or rather with the imposture based on that historical figure. Supposedly the only one of the Romanov children to escape ...

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2001: Eoin McNamee, The Blue Tango

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pp. 147-150

In the early hours of 13 November 1952, the naked body of nineteen-year-old Patricia Curran was found by her brother in the driveway of The Glen, the family home in Whiteabbey, County Antrim, five miles north of Belfast. She had been stabbed thirty-seven times. ...

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2002: Deirdre Madden, Authenticity

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pp. 151-154

To write a novel that upholds a belief in art as a repository of faith, hope and charity is an ambitious and courageous undertaking, but that is what Authenticity ultimately amounts to. Deirdre Madden’s portrait of the artist Roderic Kennedy is not just a depiction of that painter’s processes and accomplishments. ...

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2003: Keith Ridgway, The Parts

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pp. 154-158

‘Here we are’ (3, 457). This is the opening and closing sentence of The Parts, and it is not as simple a statement as it looks. Its declarative simplicity inevitably speaks for, though also conceals, the multiform nature of the ‘here’ and ‘we’ that the sentence frames. ...

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2004: Colm Tóibín, The Master

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pp. 158-162

‘The intellect of man is forced to choose/Perfection of the life, or of the work’. Yeats’s lines seem particularly applicable to the life and work of Henry James, who in The Master resolves their stark polarity by electing to perfect the life in the work. The mastery he attains in the crucial years the novel covers ...

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2005: Sebastian Barry, A Long, Long Way

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pp. 162-165

Although he seems a long, long way from fully appreciating the fact, Willie Dunne has been marked by history from birth – ‘He was called William after the long-dead Orange King, because his father took an interest in such distant matters’ (3). And it is not only far-off history that has left an imprint on him. ...

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2006: Gerard Donovan, Julius Winsome

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pp. 166-169

Except for his dog Hobbes, a bull terrier, fifty-one-year-old Julius Winsome is alone. He lives in the secluded fastness of the border land between Maine and New Brunswick, and when the weather is good earns a living of sorts as a landscaper and mechanic, seemingly antithetical occupations ...

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2007: Anne Enright, The Gathering

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pp. 169-173

'A hosting of the Hegartys. God help us all’ (187). That is the gathering that the narrative heads towards. With their faded mother, nine Hegarty siblings, including the narrator, Veronica, come together back home in Dublin – though with no marked expression of togetherness or unity ...

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2008: Joseph O’Neill, Netherland

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pp. 173-176

The attack on the World Trade Center has obliged Hans van den Broek, his wife Rachel and their small son Jake to move from their loft in fashionable TriBeCa to the Chelsea Hotel, one of New York’s most fabled hostelries. Obviously, things could be a lot worse. Husband and wife both retain their very lucrative jobs, ...

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2009: Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin

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pp. 177-180

A spinning world – great or not as it may be; and as this novel indicates, it is great in many ways and also small in many other ways – is an image of poise and persistence. These qualities are also exemplified by Philippe Petit, who on the morning of 7 August 1974 carried out his famous high-wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. ...

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2010: Paul Murray, Skippy Dies

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pp. 180-184

Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is a second-year boarder at Seabrook College, a highly reputed secondary south County Dublin school run by the Paraclete Fathers (modelled, it appears, on Blackrock College, run by the Holy Ghost Fathers). During a doughnut-eating competition with his room-mate, Ruprecht van Doren, Skippy collapses and dies. ...

Bibliographical Note

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pp. 185-186

Bibliography

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pp. 187-218

Index

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pp. 219-224


E-ISBN-13: 9781908634221
Print-ISBN-13: 9781859184950
Print-ISBN-10: 1859184952

Publication Year: 2012