by John McGahern
Michael Moran is an old man, a veteran of Ireland's war of independence (which some may say is still going on, at least in Ulster). Now, though, as he descends into old age, he is surrounded by his three lively daughters and his second wife, Rose. Moran also has two sons, with whom he is in constant conflict. What he seems to be suffering from is a long lingering and deep seated violence that surges from his youth and into the family around him. Moran is bitter and isolated. He is calm with the women, though they cower from his outbursts. One son left and won't return. The other hides behind Rose until he too finds his wild oats. I suspect Moran is a fairly common character in Irish (as well as American) culture. He is a man who feels something has been taken away from him as his position at the center of attention and adventure withers away with the years. He enforces his own view of the world upon those around him, sensing threat with every encounter with another, younger, man. He now abides with his little farm in the west of Ireland, sometimes demanding help and attention at seemingly inappropriate times as a way of focusing attention on his shrinking life. The book centers on the Moran family and the patriarch's behavior. It is told from all points of view as the girls grow to women and move out, and as the boys grow to men and fight with Daddy. McGahern tells the story with the pace of Irish farm life, detailed and sometimes touching. It is a well-observed portrait of generational conflict, understated and engrossing.
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