Michael Moran is an old Irish Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerrilla leader in the Irish War of Independence. Moran is till fighting--with his family, his friends, and even himself--in this haunting testimony to the enduring qualities of the human spirit.
Sometimes it is small themes that make a good novel--sometimes it's the subtle touches the writer uses that gives a story its strength. For instance every night the Moran family sit down to say their rosary--Moran is traditional in just about everything he does. Rejecting the new ways--compromising only when he has to to hold together his family--the children looking to the new ways and trying to hold on to some of the old. A family in flux you might say. This is very believable and is well told.
My Review This was a very powerful read about a former IRA member raising his family of three daughters and two sons under very strict, controlling and violent conditions. Although he professes love for his family, the outcome of the Irish War has caused him frustration and he takes it out on his family. They in turn are very loyal to him, except for his eldest son who has his father's personality. McGahern does a great job conveying the effects of the negativity of Moran on each member of the family and their reaction to it. Although the book is a harsh look at a family, I do highly recommend it as it is a well-worthwhile read.
Moran is the head of the household in rural Ireland. He is gruff, moody and suspicious of those outside the family. The family consists of himself, and his five children, the eldest of which is now London-based and non communicado. He prefers not to engage with a father he sees as domineering and cruel. The three middle children are young women who put up with their father, feeling that he is the heart of a family that they simply cannot exist without the support of. Youngest is Michael, who gets incrementally less happy when each of his siblings grows up and moves out.
The story is told over a period from when Moran brings a wife into the house, who is able to both put up with and quell the moods of her husband, the moods which so dominate the household. The comings and goings of the children, the hay harvests, the introduction of boyfriends/fiancées, and the increasing conflict arising between the remaining son and his father make up the fabric of the story. It is deep storytelling, in spite of the few pages it is told in. And it handles very well the issue of how fine a line abuse can straddle.
I commend McGahern for making me passionate about this book - passionately angry. The characters were so infuriating. All of them. Luke was perhaps the least infuriating but he still got on my nerves a bit
Pretty much in every scene of the book I wanted to yell at a character or characters. Moran abuses his family - emotionally and physically. I thought maybe Rose would at least help with that situation but if anything she made it worse.
I was just angry that these people kept coming back even though Moran, without fail, would treat them horribly 99% of the time. Sheila finally gains enough confidence and bravery to stand up to her father, but not for her sake or her siblings'. Luke at least saw Moran more clearly than anyone else but when he expressed that he wanted to maybe try to work things out with his father, in the same breath he said it was too late. I don't think it was.
I could rant about this book for so long. I both wanted these damaged people and this broken family to work things out, and I desperately wanted his children to get away and find a happy life.
Also, McGahern would contradict himself quite often in the narrative which made the book tedious at times. The timeline of the novel is a bit hard to follow because of the formatting and lack of standard chapters. At times the narrative was completely unorganized, jumping from the past to the present, to the future, and then back. Also, there were almost transitions from one scene to another. Oh, it's this day and this is happening oh look it's now this is happening and it's the next morning but I don't say that right away because I like to be unorganized and unclear. As well, sometimes I would get hints of things like inappropriateness - if you catch my drift - from Moran towards his children, but it was never really elaborated on. Why include it in the first place?
I gave it two stars because despite all of the problems and how much it angered me, the book did manage to make me feel strongly about the story. If a writer can accomplish that, they've not got a completely unsuccessful novel.
Moran is a widowed veteran of the Irish wars of independence who runs a small farm with his five children. The opening part of the book introduces the family as they get together in his old age to try and revive his failing spirit. It is already clear in this section that he is a proud and difficult man to live with. The rest of the book is chronological, starting when his three daughters and youngest son are teenagers but the eldest son Luke has already left for London. He marries the self-effacing and saintly Rose, who has to do all of the running to get them together but soon forms a powerful bond with the three daughters. Moran's violent temper and unpredictable mood swings are oppressive even to the reader. The story follows Moran as his remaining children move away, with all but the estranged and unforgiving Luke returning to the farm frequently.
McGahern eventually succeeds in making you understand why the family tolerate and even love this monster, and by the end of the book one almost feels sorry for him. This is an eloquent and ultimately rather beautiful book.
This book is considered to be McGahern's masterpiece. It is tersely written, with a particularly effective portrayal of the claustrophobia of rural family life. As such, it's not always comfortable to read, as the tension in the household transmits frequently to the reader. The dynamics of family are also well drawn, as the four children and Rose, the new wife, make excuses for Moran's unpleasantness and revel in the times he flashes humor and warmth instead.
The problem for me is that the daughters seemed barely distinguishable as characters. Only the youngest sibling, brother Michael, and Rose get anywhere near a full fleshing out as individuals. Also, the theme of the household with the angry, abusive (in this case chiefly psychologically) father runs through so many Irish novels that, realistic as it may be, I feel by now that I'd occasionally like a break. The family as a unit is the real character, here, and the strength of that unit is shown as unshakeable. The book is engrossing, but perhaps from my California remove I missed some of its resonance.
Moran is the father of five children, three girls and two boys. The children's mother is dead and the oldest girl, Maggie, manages the household for her father. The oldest child, Luke, left home to settle in London and has never returned to the family home due to some unnamed argument with Moran. At the post office one night while waiting for the evening mail Moran falls into conversation with Rose who has recently returned to the area from Scotland to help her mother and brother cope with their father's death. Moran walks partway home with Rose and is so charming that she sets her cap for him. She is warned that Moran is different at home but she still marries him.This frees Maggie to go to London to take nurses' training. Shortly the other two girls leave to take civil servant jobs in Dublin although Mona was offered university scholarships. She wanted to go to university and possibly become a doctor but Moran is against that. And what Moran wants, Moran gets. It is true that Moran is far different at home than he is in public. All the children are tense around him and watch him carefully to see if he is having a good or a bad day. The women, Rose and the daughters, seem to be able to manage him when he is in a foul temper but both boys have to leave home in time. Moran is deeply religious; he says the Rosary every night with everyone in the household, goes to church, and says grace before every meal. However, he is of the "wrathful God" type of religion and in his household he expects to be obeyed.
I couldn't help but compare Moran with my own father since they would probably have been of a similar age. Both were farmers and in the 1950s my father's farm would have been much like Moran's.My father left school at age 14 and Moran was about that age as well. However, my father never fought in any wars and I can't help but think that explains why Moran was so dictatorial and my father was easy to get along with. I rarely saw my father in a temper and he certainly never raised a hand to any of us. Or perhaps Moran just had a mercurial personality that he felt free to impose on anyone around. He certainly would have been hard to live with.
Moran is the father of three daughters and two children. He is an embittered Irish Republican soldier. Moran marries Rose, his second wife. Everyone lives their lives in step with Moran's moods which change quickly without warning. Everyone except the one son who leaves before the story begins.
I enjoyed this novel very much. I think the author's best achievement was to describe the aging process of this man who had so much influence on those around him.