Sunday, April 22, 2007


Although I have been a long time admirer of John McGahern’s work, I had never come across any of his short stories, so I was delighted to receive “Creatures of the Earth “ (Hardback: Faber & Faber: 21euro) for Christmas. This posthumously published collection of new and selected stories is an eclectic mix of tales that span McGahern’s long and distinguished career. There are some familiar themes here: awkward relationships between father and son, fractured love affairs and the healing nature of the rural landscape.

I really enjoyed my journey through this book. Although several of the stories have overlapping settings and subjects each story is its own unique vignette. The great thing about a collection like this is that you can pick it up with only a short amount of time available for reading and have a really fulfilling experience. This is particularly ideal if life is very busy and you are finding it difficult to maintain the momentum behind a novel you have started.

Some of my favourite stories included “Like all other men”, “Sierra Leone”, and “My love, my umbrella”, as they deal with the fragile nature of new relationships and depict what must have been the author’s own disappointment in love beautifully. I also especially liked the two brand new stories, “Creatures of the earth” and “Love of the world”. These unusual stories are redolent with McGahern’s wisdom and powers of observation. They both left me wondering a little too and this enigmatic quality probably characterises the writer’s status as a true master of his art. The collection is currently still in hardback; if it arrives in paperback by the summer, it would be a great book to take away and enjoy in snatches on holiday.

Another book which has give me great pleasure on these cold winter evenings is “Vanishing Ireland” by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury (Hardback: Hodder Headline Ireland: 30 euro) It is comprised of photographs and short pieces of text on Ireland’s vanishing generation; older people from a wide range of different backgrounds ranging from farming to music to city based trades people. The mesmerising black and white photos tell their own stories, etched in the lines and the sparkling eyes of their subjects and the book gives a fascinating insight into their (extra) ordinary lives. Some friends lent me their copy of this book and it is a testament to its excellence that when I enquired at the book shop to find out about getting my own copy I was told it had completely sold out and was being reprinted!
(Rather like the success experienced by our own Dick Jeffers with “A Harvest of Memories”….) It’s now available again in local shops so get your copy. A fantastic read for all ages.

As usual all books are available from Janet Hawkins in the Blessington Bookstore.

PS Sorry about the double dose of “Kevin” last month….my fault for sending Rose a wrongly labelled file!


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