Saturday, January 10, 2015

Irish Anguish

I've wanted to read John McGahern's The Barracks for quite some time now - glad I finally got around to it.   The story centers around the life of Elizabeth Reegan, a woman who has lived a varied life but ends up back in the Irish village in which she grew up.  Married to her husband, a widower and a police officer who hates his job and wishes to be his own boss someday, she tends the home and takes care of his three children.  It's a bleak tale in which Ms. Reegan must fight for her life against breast cancer, and addresses the futility and fleeting freedoms of life.  This is an insular, unsparing book, and beautifully written.  Some compelling passages:
"He brought a wonderful ease with him sometimes into the house, the black hands of the clock would take wings."
"She was shackled, a thieving animal held at last in this one field."
"There never had been even any real discussion, not to speak of understanding, and while each of them alone was nothing there might be no knowing what both of them might find together." 
"Always easy to love something or somebody when you know you don't have to endure them anymore, when the goodbyes are being waved, and you can have your dream and choice of them instead of their solid, individual and demanding presence."

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