Monday, October 24, 2016

Indelible Irish

I had a serendipitous reading experience last week in which I picked up both John Banville's The Sea and Sebastian Barry's The Temporary Gentleman at the library, not knowing much about either book or either author.  Both are contemporary Irish writers with many novels under their belt.  I happened to pick these two books with no previous recommendations.  Both roped me in immediately with gorgeous language and unique plots.  Barry's novel is told from Jack McNulty's perspective as he looks back on his difficult marriage and his career as a soldier, engineer, and UN observer which took him all over the world.  It weaves in anecdotes from where the protagonist currently sits, in 1950-s Ghana, reflecting on his life.  I couldn't put it down. 

Banville's The Sea is a slim novel that explores the way grief, love, and childhood memories intersect, with the ever-changing but steady sea as a backdrop.  Banville used a number of words in his novel that I had to read more than once because I wasn't sure if they were real or invented, such as "quietus" and "bosky," which kept me on my toes.  Every single page contained memorable passages, but these were a few of my favorites:

How wildly the wind blows today, thumping its big soft ineffectual fists on the windowpanes.  This is just the kind of autumn weather, tempestuous and clear, that I have always loved. 
Also, she understands me to a degree that is disturbing and will not indulge my foibles and excesses as others do who know me less and therefore fear me more. 
My expression was uniformly winsome and ingratiating, the expression of a miscreant who fears he is about to be accused of a crime he knows he has committed yet cannot quite recall, but is preparing his extenuations and justifications anyway. 

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