Sunday, March 1, 2009


The first book of 2009 has probably ruined me for any others- it was so gripping. “Engleby” by Sebastian Faulks (Paperback: Vintage: 10.00) tells the story of the eponymous anti-hero, from his awkward teenage years on a scholarship to public school, through his experiences at an elite university and beyond , to middle age.
Michael Engleby is to all intents and purposes an archetypal working class boy, who appears to feel uncomfortable in his own skin largely for social reasons. The story is narrated from his own perspective, so the reader gains a unique insight into Engleby’s thoughts and judgements. There isn’t a lot about how he feels, although conversely as the reader I was deeply moved at regular intervals in the novel by his depictions of his own isolation. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, as the book is a thriller and I am relieved I was able to read it over the holidays, as I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed Faulkks’ earlier novel, “Birdsong”, set in the first world war, and really admire his style as a writer, but this latest offering is in a league of its own. The enduring picture of Engleby is of a complex and quite a tortured mind, a character that repulses, but at the same time is sympathetic and fascinating. Highly recommended.

Prior to Engleby and it’s very British setting I was immersed in the turbulent world of 1960’s Nigeria and Biafra’s struggle for independence. “Half of a yellow sun” (Paperback : Harper perennial: 10.50) is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s second novel. I thoroughly enjoyed “Purple Hibiscus”, but her style has matured even more in this offering, which won the Orange Prize for fiction on 2007. The title reflects the symbol that was on the flag of the newly formed Biafra and the novel gives a very accurate historical account of the harrowing conflict, seen through the eyes of several characters. Ugwu is a young country boy who comes to work in the home of an influential Nigerian academic and we witness his growing up against the background of the civil strife. His master’s partner, Olanna is a compelling character who experiences the ravages of the war and it’s privations first hand, as does her very different twin sister Kayenne. Finally we see the completely different perspective of Richard from England, who comes to love Nigeria and see himself as one of the new Biafrans. Understandably the book is disturbing and traumatic in places, but the writer is never gratuitous . Adiche’s kaleidoscopic narrative style provides a lens through which to view history, but more importantly tells a series of finely drawn love stories. She is an excellent writer and one to watch.

On Sunday evening 14th December Rev Mark Hamblen was inducted as minister of Brannockstown Baptist Church.
The Service was conducted by Pastor Robert Millar of Jamestown Rd. Baptist Church, Dublin who joined the church elders, Allen Brook and Jim Tutty in the Act of Induction with the laying on of hands. Pastor Robert Dunlop led the prayer of Commendation of Mark and Alisha to their new ministry.
Pastor Hamblen and his wife are natives of California and have lived in Athy for several years.
Morning Worship is held at Brannockstown every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and visitors are welcomed.

For further information go to
Village Green Garden Club
We had a lovely end to the year at our December meeting when Beth Murphy introduced us to the beauty and many uses of willow. Members tried their hand at making willow wreaths and Christmas stars, so everyone left clutching something made by their own hands. Our thanks to Beth for a great evening. As there is no meeting in January, our next date is Thursday February 26th at 7.30 in the Resource Centre. New members always welcome, so do come and join us

Famous Families – The House of Atreus
At last sight (Bugle July 2006), the macabre Macbeth family in Scotland were still bickering after 600 years of turmoil. Lady Angelica, widow of Hugh, 6th Earl and 25th Thane had inherited the complete family estate on his death, to the eternal chagrin of her stepson Colin, 7th Earl, and his sister Liza, who refers to her stepmother as Lady Diabolika.
As famous as that family’s state of disunion is, it is mere kindergarten when compared to some of the really famous families in history. But one should bear in mind the customs of the times then in vogue, lest we compare modern social attitudes with the old. By the same token, when we read reports in some of our newspapers about crime today, it is to be wondered if anything at all has changed.
It is well to understand that legends, heroic or otherwise, can be true in essence but that over-imaginative detail can sometimes lead us astray. When Schlieman discovered Illium, the site of Troy, in the 1870’s, he did so by following unintended geographical pointers in Homer’s poem, The Illiad, a method dismissed as “unprofessional” by eminent professors of the time.

The story of The House of Atreus comes to us in part from mythology, is linked with Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, and then, importantly, from the plays of Aeschuylus (525-456BC), telling how a curse followed the family for generations, culminating in the aftermath of the ten year long Trojan war, with the deepest tragedy imaginable in the complexities of human relationships – the first ever case of matricide - involving Electra, and her brother Orestes’ trial.
Tantalus was a favourite son of Zeus and was honoured by all of the Gods above all of Zeus’ mortal children. But Tantalus was himself contemptuous of the Gods, of their haughty mannerisms, even though he was the only mortal ever invited to sit at their table and share their divine food. He returned the favour with bitter relish when he invited the Gods to dine with him at a banquet at his palace, to which they condescended, offering every delicacy and the most delectable fare imaginable, the main course of which had superseded in taste anything the Gods had ever experienced before. They were euphoric in praise of Tantalus’ goodnesses, but when details of the menu were disclosed, they were horrified to learn that Tantalus had had his young son Pelops killed, boiled, sliced and served to them on golden plates. With ire and immediate anger they condemned Tantaslus to the everlasting terror of hunger and thirst in Hades, where sunk to his neck in water, he could never drink nor the food touch, for the water receded when he needed it most and overhead, trees whose branches were laden with fruit were blown away by the wind when hunger raged in his body. His wickedness would never be forgotten and succeeding generations would be torn apart by tragedy.
His son Pelops was restored to life by the Gods and although he was happily married to Princess Hippodameia (the east pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia tells this story), his sister Niome carried the arrogance of her father, a superiority gained from prosperity alone, demanding equal status with the Gods. It was enough for the gods to act against her. and her seven sons and seven daughters were struck down and she in utter anguish sank in grief with them gushing tears of sorrow but not repentance and she lies as a stone whose own tears are the stream that washes over her.
Pelops had two sons, Atreus and Thyestes, and their’s is known as the inheritance of evil. In brief, Thyestes had an affair with Atreus’ wife, Aerope, and Atreus in base vengeance killed his brother’s two young sons and at a grand feast, served them boiled to Thyestes, who on learning the fate of his sons bellowed vengeance and doom on the House of Atreus. But Atreus was king, and while that atrocity would never be truly avenged, the next generation would be witness to one of the greatest series tragedies affecting a family in ancient Greek times; for born to the new and its succeeding generation, were heroes of the Battle of Troy and their children, born only to be rent asunder by the sins of Tantalus and his successors, as foretold.
Atreus had two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, married to Clythemnestra and Helen (of Troy) respectively. Agamemnon and Clythemnestra had three children, Orestes, Iphigenia and Electra. Included in this volatile mix of humanity was Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, who while Agamemnon was away at war in Troy, held ‘criminal conversation’ with the not unwilling Clythemnestra. Next month – murder most foul - the culmination of this particular family’s affairs. Michael Ward.

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