A haunted childhood, lived out in two dimensions. One is legendary: the Sun-fort of Grianan, home of the warrior Fianna; the Field of the Disappeared, over which no gulls fly; the house in Donegal where children are stolen away by demonic forces. The other is actual: the city of Derry in the Northern Ireland of the 40s and 50s; a place that is ...
A haunted childhood, lived out in two dimensions. One is legendary: the Sun-fort of Grianan, home of the warrior Fianna; the Field of the Disappeared, over which no gulls fly; the house in Donegal where children are stolen away by demonic forces. The other is actual: the city of Derry in the Northern Ireland of the 40s and 50s; a place that is also haunted by political enmities, family secrets, lethal intrigue. The boy narrator of READING IN THE DARK grows up enclosed in these two worlds, sensing that they are intertwined in some mysterious ways that he both wants and does not want to discover. Through the silence that surrounds him, he feels the truth spreading like a stain until it engulfs him and his family. Claustrophobic but lyrically charged, breathtakingly sad but vibrant and unforgettable, READING IN THE DARK is one of the finest books about growing up - in Ireland or anywhere - that has every been written.
I haven't read this book in quite a while but I chose this as my first book review simply because it's one of my favorite books. People tend to review this against 'Angelas Ashes', but other than they are both set in Ireland I don't see much comparison. Seamus Deane's writing here is like reading paragraphs of poems and there are ghosts everywhere, living and dead. I don't remember putting it down once I started.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-03-02 Deane is a poet and a celebrated literary historian, and this, his first novel, was deservedly shortlisted for England's Booker prize last year (it did win the Guardian Fiction Prize). At first glance, it covers familiar turf: an Irish family riven by the political strife of the 1920s trying to live with the legacy of bloodshed and betrayalĉall seen through the eyes of a sensitive young boy as he looks back 20 years later. But Deane has a poet's eye, which transforms the most everyday material into something eternally rich and strange: "The rain lifted away, the sunlight lay piebald on the path for a brief time, then the rain shuttered us in again." And he watches the long struggles of the family with the same kind of patient endurance they themselves display. Gradually, their story emerges from the mists in which it has been wrapped for a generation: an uncle who in family legend had fled to Chicago had in fact been executed, mistakenly, as an informer on the IRA by members of his own family; the real informer, who had been loved by the boy's mother and had briefly married her sister, had escaped, tipped off by the police. Mother and father each know some of the story, and realize that knowing all of it will drive them apart; their life together is a long, loving grief. All this is glimpsed by the narrator in hints and flashes, combined with hilarious surges of comic reliefĉa lecture on the facts of life by a well-meaning priest, an incomprehensible math lesson at school, the brisk tirades of a local madman, a sly way of getting back at a hated policeman by way of the bishop. In Deane's hands, the language leaps and quivers, and the life he illuminates is at once achingly sad and transfixingly real. 35,000 first printing. (Apr.)
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