The Books of My Numberless Dreams

At Sheila’s wedding

Posted on: January 8, 2007

If there had been a great show of music and drinking and dancing it might have hidden the awkwardness of the occasion. Only the worn face of Sean’s mother was a study of pure emotion. He had been her first boy, her beloved. From an early age she had encouraged him at school, protecting him from the rough work of the farm; at times she had even fed him separately from his brothers and sisters. During the long summers when he came home from boarding school she made sure that he was able to read or go on walks even when his sisters were pressed into farm work. He was her special one. One day she would kneel and watch him raise the Host in the local church and after she was gone he would say Mass for her soul. When he entered the civil service instead of continuing to Maynooth, the disappointment stayed with her like a physical injury for months. Now she was losing him to another woman and he was taking on the mere life of any man with a woman. Her eyes were mutely fastened to him as he was getting ready to leave. When he took her in his arms–‘Mind yourself, Mother!’–at last she broke into the relief of tears. She watched the two heads framed in the back window of the car taking them to the airport disappear in the traffic. He did not look back once.

From “Amongst Women” by John McGahern

In my post on the novel below I don’t think I stressed enough how much I loved McGahern’s prose. His ability to write things that feel so piercingly true and authentic that you could not keep your distance from the action if you’ve tried, is breathtaking. For once the blurb on a cover is right.(Well I don’t know about the “tonic” description or the best-thing-about-fiction-is-truth idea but everything after that is right on point.)

“McGahern brings us the tonic gift of the best fiction, the sense of truth–the sense of a transparency that permits us to see imaginary lives more clearly than we see our own.” – John Updike


2 Responses to "At Sheila’s wedding"

McGahern is on my list of people to check out — thanks for the review.

Ooo I can’t wait to see what you have to say about him. I can’t imagine Amongst Women not making my year end list and already have The Pornographer waiting in the wings.

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