Category: Reviews

Marilynne Robinson: voice for our times

What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson (Virago, £18.99) Patrick
 Claffey   Born in 1943, Marilynne Robinson is a celebrated American novelist and essayist, a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, a National Humanities Medal and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in 2016 – the year she was also named…

Roads untaken in Irish history

Commemoration by Heather Laird (Cork University Press, €9.95) Felix
 Larkin   In Evelyn Conlon’s novel Not the Same Sky, one of the characters questions the purpose of memorials – and, by extension, the purpose of historical commemorations generally. She asks: “Are they to let us know? To make us accept? Or are they to make us weep?” In…

The darkness over Rathcairn

The Cruelty Men by Emer Martin (Lilliput Press, €16.00) This book is about an extended family in the decades following the establishment of the Irish Free State. The family originated in the barony of Iveragh, Co. Kerry, one of the poorest areas in the country. Under a scheme developed by the Land Commission, Irish-speaking families from…

Missed opportunity in a case of déjà vu all over again

 (PG)   The idea was good: dovetail the idea of a fractured fraternal relationship with a fractured country. Unfortunately, this Donal Foreman feature, which tenuously examines his relationship with his father, the late American documentarian Arthur MacCaig, against the backdrop of the Troubles, is far too skimpy and staccato to justify the tantalising potential of…

A prison without walls

Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning (Dublin: Penguin, £14.99) Frank
 Litton   Mental illness is a cruel affliction. There is hardly anybody who has not been touched by it; as a sufferer, or as family, friend or colleague of a sufferer. Mental illness differs from physical illness; the problems it poses…

Keeping an eagle eye on local matters

The Irish Regional Press, 1892-2018: Revival, Revolution and Republic by Ian Kenneally & James T. O’Donnell (Four Courts Press, €50) Felix 
 Larkin   This volume, which originated in a conference held in Dublin City University in 2014, is a valuable addition to the growing body of work on Irish media. It comprises 14 essays with a substantial…

Empowering our citizens

Powering The Nation. Images of the Shannon Scheme and Electricity in Ireland by Sorcha O’Brien (Irish Academic Press, €29.99) Joe
 Carroll   Today the Shannon hydroelectric scheme at Ardnacrusha produces about one-eighth of our electricity requirements and is mainly used at peak demand. But when it was switched on in 1929 it was designed to electrify the…

Olga Barry spotlights Kilkenny with superb programme

Pat O’Kelly   Completing his five-year term at the Kilkenny Arts Festival, Eugene Downes steps down as artistic director later this month. His mantle passes to Olga Barry, currently Festival Producer, whom Downes describes as “a gifted and respected arts leader”. Since his appointment in 2013, Dublin-born Downes has revitalised the festival’s ‘classical’ music element…