Almost as though in reference to the title of her best novel, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX (2006), Maggie O’Farrell’s new one begins with a disappearance. One morning in 1976, in the midst of a heatwave, retired bank manager Robert Riordan, after laying breakfast for his wife Gretta, leaves their North London house, draws some money from his bank, and does not return. Within a day, their three grown children have all returned home to help their mother handle the crisis: Michael Francis from his house a few miles away, where he lives with his wife and two young children; Monica from a farm in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her second husband and, at weekends, his two children; and Aoife*, the youngest, from New York, where she is single with a boyfriend. Thus O’Farrell lays the groundwork for a book about family dynamics, not only Gretta, the absent Robert, and their grown children, but also the individual situations of the offspring, who will each confront and largely resolve their own personal crises over the four-day span of the novel. At this level, it is an extraordinarily well-constructed and heart-warming read.
The very first page of Colm Toibinâ€™s new novel, BROOKLYN, sets the stage beautifully: In Enniscorthy, a small town in Ireland, Eilis Lacey looks out the window as her more glamorous sister, Rose, returns from a game of golf with her professional acquaintances. Rose has an important job, provides for the family and is the arbiter of most conversations the homely Eilis shares with her mother. When Eilis looks out the window, itâ€™s as if an adoring child is watching a parent return home. So it comes as no surprise when…
August 13, 2009
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: Immigration-Diaspora, Ireland, Irish Â· Posted in: Costa Award (Whitbread), Europe, Family Matters, Literary, Man Booker Nominee, New York City, World Lit