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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Amongst Women (1990) by John McGahern

Book Review
Amongst Women (1990)
 by John McGahern

  John McGahern is another excellent answer to the question, "Why bother with the 1001 Books list?"  There is not doubt that McGahern is an excellent novelist, with a compelling ear for dialogue and superb grasp of the mechanics of the "country novel."  That he could publish such a book in 1990 and have it considered a masterpiece is even more a testament to his skill, since the cool, quiet realism of country life in 20th century Ireland is far, far from the precincts of post-modernism and magical realism.

  Amongst Women is about Michael Moran, an IRA guerrilla turned farmer, living in the middle of the 20th century, out in the country, with his second wife and his children from his first marriage.  Moran and his family live quiet, respectable lives, but Moran also lives with a tightly suppressed anger that occasionally bursts forth in a manner that we today consider border-line domestic abuse.  In the context of the mid 20th century, Irish milleu, Moran is far from being a boundary breaker, and as the novel proceeds, McGahern softens Moran's character over time in a way that will ring familar to anyone with the experience of a stern patriarch.

  What could be a one dimensional tale about an abusive patriarch is instead something far subtler and richer. 

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