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Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.
Let’s start with some love for the great Penelope Fitzgerald. MarGar65 has been enjoying Offshore:
I cannot possibly express eloquently enough how much I loved Offshore. I am in awe of Penelope Fitzgerald. I will have to go trolling through the used bookstores nearby looking for whatever books of hers I can lay my hands on.
In a poor and remote village in India, a Doctor and his pharmacist struggle with long hours at the most basic of clinics, and one that lacks equipment and is highly unsanitary. After a particularly testing day and late at night, as they close up, a young couple and their eight year old son arrive begging for treatment after a vicious assault. On closer inspection the Doctor realises their wounds mean they could not possibly have survived the attack. So is this a horror story? One of zombies? I was intrigued. But it is neither, and far more intricate than that, defying the usual genre labelling. I suppose it might be termed contemporary or speculative fiction, though I don’t like the term ‘speculative’ as surely every piece of writing seeks to tread some sort of new ground. It’s certainly original, about redemption and faith, and a very human story, tremendously well told. Also, it has that most wonderful thing, a last sentence that goes a long way to explain everything that has gone before. Immensely satisfying.
It’s not my usual cup of tea, but I am absolutely gripped – very ordinary characters and events brought into amazingly vivid life by sheer command of language.
I cringe at his cynicism and cheer at his brilliant writing style. I’d have loved, though not dared, to engage him in conversation in a pub of my choice. His books are wonderful.
A review quote on the cover (quoting Anthony Burgess) states, “Cronin could not write a dull line if he tried.” Well Cronin appears to have tried extra hard as the first third of the book, covering O’Nolan’s early years and family circumstances, was dry and pedestrian. Things got going a bit once we reached the Myles na gCopaleen period, but I’m afraid I found this a dull read from one who knew the subject and the whole Dublin literary scene at first hand.
I really struggled with it and almost abandoned it twice. I think I’m probably not the demographic. For a book about two very damaged people who attract then repel each other throughout, their motivations were examined in a shallow way. I thought the setting of Trinity College Dublin could have been anywhere. For me it sat uneasily between university novel, tortured romance and class study with no subject deep enough for the book to tilt in either of these directions. Many of the character’s voices were indistinguishable
Each of his books has a special place in my heart and this, his only collection of stories, is no different. Every one is a tiny little treat, always sweet and funny and written in the most creative language you will ever find. He was an unrivalled comic genius.
I am taking it deliberately slowly because it is just so good. He seems to have reached that holy grail of a novel that evokes ordinary characters sympathetically/funnily/tragically, against the background of real history. I have just got through an all-too-convincing account of the dreadful Indira Gandhi presiding over a political rally which nicely foreshadows the more widespread populism of today.
Anthony Burgess on how to write about DH Lawrence.
Ford Madox Ford writing about DH Lawrence and showing how it’s done.
Malcolm Lowry has become a subject of Great Lives on Radio 4.
Elizabeth Crook on taking time to write.
Security forces have stopped smugglers making off with a 1,300-year-old book in Turkey.