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By the Lakeby John Mcgahern
"It's difficult to suppress a yawn at the announcement of yet another great Irish novel. At this point, it would be easier for a bad one to make headlines. Still — it's got to be said — By the Lake, the latest from John McGahern, is wonderful. Nothing happens in it except for the rustle through a year with a few villagers, but the life McGahern resurrects here sounds like the melody of a forgotten favorite song. Indeed, no body of water has been so lovingly revered since Henry David Thoreau went to the woods." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
The writer who has been called the Irish Chekhov guides readers into a fictional village in rural Ireland and deftly explores its natural rhythms and the inner lives of its inhabitants.
The characters in By the Lake include the Ruttledges, who have forsaken the glitter of London to raise sheep and cattle, gossip-mongering Jamesie Murphy, handsome John Quinn — perennially on the lookout for a new wife — as well as the gruff self-made magnate known as "the Shah." Through the course of a year, John McGahern unveils their passions and regrets, their uneasy relationship with the modern world and their ancient intimacy with death. And he creates a novel at once lyrical and slyly comic, earthy, melancholy, and transcendently lovely.
"Ranks with the greatest Irish writers." New York Times Book Review
"This is a book to surrender yourself to. If you give in to its measured ebb and flow, you will find yourself in [a] world in which the simplest objects...take on a quiet but magical luminosity." The Economist
"This great and moving novel, which looks so quiet and provincial, opens out through its small frame to our most troubling and essential questions." The Observer
"A superb, earthly pastoral...a knowing, quick-witted performance; a tale of chat, much gossip, a whiff of menace...McGahern, a supreme chronicler [of] the closing chapters of traditional Irish rural life, has created a novel that lives and breathes." The Irish Times
"When nature is rendered as vividly as this, it changes the character of fiction....McGahern has captured the ties of custom and affection that bind people to the land-and to each other." Sunday Telegraph
"[McGahern has] an uncanny knack of homing in on the definitive moment, the illuminating detail." The Independent
"At last an Irish author has awakened from the nightmare of history and given us a sense of liberation which is not dependent on flight or emigration or escape." The Guardian
"McGahern is never sentimental, and the novel's greatest pleasures come from the unflinching probity of his observations." New Yorker
With this magnificently assured new novel, John McGahern reminds us why he has been called the Irish Chekhov, as he guides readers into a village in rural Ireland and deftly, compassionately traces its natural rhythms and the inner lives of its people. Here are the Ruttledges, who have forsaken the glitter of London to raise sheep and cattle, gentle Jamesie Murphy, whose appetite for gossip both charms and intimidates his neighbors, handsome John Quinn, perennially on the look-out for a new wife, and the towns richest man, a gruff, self-made magnate known as “the Shah.”
Following his characters through the course of a year, through lambing and haying seasons, market days and family visits, McGahern lays bare their passions and regrets, their uneasy relationship with the modern world, their ancient intimacy with death.
About the Author
John McGahern was the author of five highly acclaimed novels and four collections of short stories. His novel Amongst Women won the GPA Book Award and the Irish Times Award, was short-listed for the Booker Prize, and was made into a four-part BBC television series. He had been a visiting professor at Colgate University and at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and was the recipient of the Society of Authors' Award, the American-Irish Award, and the Prix Étrangère Ecureuil, among other awards and honors. His work appeared in anthologies and was translated into many languages. He died in 2006.
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