Sunday, June 21, 2009


April was a month of two Sebastians and two really excellent novels. I had been longing to read “The Secret Scripture” by Sebastian Barry (Paperback : Faber and Faber: 9.35) for ages and it has certainly been a stayer at the top of the bestsellers list. With its elegiac biblical reference the book tells the story of a Mary Magdalene style heroine, who is recounting her life at the age of one hundred, from the bleak room of the institution in which she has spent most of her adult life.

Roseanne Clear entitles her narrative as a “testimony of herself”, with the reference to “scripture” in the title also outlining the fact that she wants to tell the truth of her tragic life story. Set in the west of Ireland the novel evokes the Sligo of the war years and caricatures the power of the church in the form of the ubiquitous parish priest: Father Gaunt. Barry is excellent at portraying family relationships and the interactions between Roseanne and her father are beautifully drawn.

Interspersed with Roseanne’s testimony is an account from the other side of the institutional divide as her psychiatrist outlines the steps he is charged with in order to close the hospital down. Dr Greene is a sympathetic character, although it takes longer to warm to him than it does to the enigmatic Roseanne. We slowly learn more about the mutual dependence in their relationship, as the doctor faces truths of his own, and the unravelling of his marriage. The plot is superb and I won’t spoil it by telling you any more. It is a deeply moving book – it seems to represent a place where history and memory meet and find a kind of redemption. It was one of my favourites so far this year and lots of people seem to have it so you should be able to borrow it from a friend!

I went back to my other favourite Seb- reading “On Green Dolphin Street” , by Sebastian Faulks (Paperback:Vintage;10.00). In complete contrast to the last novel, this is set in Washington and New York during Kennedy’s rise to power in the Democratic Party and subsequently in the presidential elections. It tells the story of Mary, the wife of a British diplomat Charlie, who is gradually going off the rails through alcohol and tranquilliser abuse. Although we get to know the whole family including Mary’s children and her parents the novel is very much about Mary.

When journalist Frank Renzo comes into Mary’s life unexpectedly it throws her hitherto very balanced emotions into turmoil. Faulks is excellent at providing insights into the inner world of his heroine- I have only seen him telling male stories before so I was duly impressed. As we watch the development of the bond between Frank and Mary it is heartbreaking to bear witness to the anguish she suffers when trying to decide where her loyalties lie.

On a separate level the story is also rich in historical detail of a very interesting phase in American history and the moral context in which the main characters are actors is very acutely situated in the heady days of the late sixties. This book has to rate as another favourite by Faulks and is a tribute to his versatility- no matter what he turns his attention to his work is always original and unpredictable.

Angie Thompson

Scoil Mhuire NewsMay 5th was a very special day for Scoil Mhuire as we celebrated our first Polish celebration day! Polish pupils Wiktoria Natanek, Kaja Natanek and Kacper Tania joined Scoil Mhuire in September 2006. As they had almost no English, they attended special language tuition in school with Martina Byrne since their arrival here. On Polish celebration day they displayed and presented projects all about their native country of Poland and they have fluent English and very good Irish now. They did a wonderful job on the day with the result that everyone wants to go to Poland on holiday now. Their parents were also very much involved in the day of celebration and provided wonderful supplies of Polish food and drink, including Meats, soup, cheeses and Polish toffee. Well done to all involved. Comhghairdeas to our gallant boys' hurling team and their trainer Martin Kelleher who has qualified for their very first hurling final ever! We're not sure if it's just a first for the school or maybe even a first for G.A.A. in Ballymore? The boys have beaten off most opposition and qualified for the final by beating Scoil Ui Riada, Maynooth in Naas on May 13th. Two early first half goals sealed the victory and the final will be played against Straffan on May 21st in Moorefield. We have the wonderful opportunity of availing the services of Chris from the Phillipines to coach the pupils in basketball this month. Chris, who is an international basketball player for his country, has caused great excitement since his arrival and he has great patience in combining teaching the skills of the game with organising matches.Scoil Mhuire applied for a grant to upgrade the school carpark and increase the size of the footpath in line with increased enrolment. This project was suspended last year but we have got the green light to go ahead this year and work should commence during the summer holidays which will enhance safety for all.(

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