Sunday, 10 April 2011

Ireland: part 2

Reading in the Dark
by Seamus Deane

This is my favourite book in this module by a long shot. Read it if you ever get the chance.

A piece of history, a mystery, a folk-tale, a memoir, and essentially an enthralling story.

We follow the narrator through a series of memories/events from early childhood to adulthood, along the way piecing together fragments of a story, of which no member of the community knows all. A murder, a betrayal, a punishment, a pregnancy and a missing uncle who is in Chicago/Las Vegas/ Dublin/ England/ Dead. Each person knows a little, but in a community where secrets are sacred and nobody speaks of the past a child grows up, trying to understand the silent tensions that control his very existence.

As each confession or secret is garnered a different facet of life appears to the reader, and each slightly changes the readers perspective, of events and of the family around which they circle. Many have transformed or gained myth-like qualities, and the traditional magical folk-lore of the island becomes entwined with each tale, as people seek ways to justify actions and find alternative reasons for the violence and drama around them. Memories, lies, confessions and stories; each is subjective, and the reader can never be sure of the position or role of any of the characters - there is no "good" or "evil", only shades between.

That the narrator goes unnamed makes him an every-man character. Is this representative of a childhood in the Irish troubles? Or a single screwed up family, in which each person's role has become twisted? Each individual garners a list of labels - protestant, catholic, nationalist, republican, unionist, royalist, police, labour. The removal of these labels to a child in the heart of the troubles then adds the question of how we classify him - a product of his family, or an individual, and in a society that clearly has already judged and classified him by his predecessors, does it really matter?

I truly love this book. It combined the history of politics with the heritage of the land in its style, and manages not only to be enlightening, but a bloody good read aswell.

So Catrin Says

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