AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern


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McGahern (High Ground, 1987; The Pornographer, 1979, etc.) writes a very pregnant novel, usually with one splendidly truthful germ as well as the capability to sensitively echo its close surroundings. But the actual book he delivers tends to be somewhat disappointing, somewhat limp and not fully realized. That's the case here too--with a family portrait of old man Moran, a hero in the Irish Independence war who has steadfastly refused his pension in disgust at how the country turned out. Moran, a farmer, has a large family--three daughters and two sons--and as the book begins ia taking a second wife, Rose. Rose holds her own in the family, remarkably--for what family is to Moran is a fastness, a fort, a place in which to hide. The daughters especially suffer this insistence on the family as withdrawal mechanism--and when the boys test it, they soon are banished altogether. The title here, however, is somewhat misleading (and the book bears no resemblance except in title to Cesare Pavese's great Italian novel), for the story is clearer about its main character, Moran, through the eyes of the sons than of the daughters. McGahern writes intimately of their lives, but there's a muzziness to many of his sentences that makes the women indistinct as well. Well-intentioned, quite artful work--with less of a strong, solid core than is satisfying.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking