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... The deck is bedded with purple blooms that wither or disappear under the purser’s footfalls. The chairs were put out at the start, and now the flying fish match the queer colours of the stripes. I am close by with a sandwich of lettuces from the huge freezers. I met an old dame in the dark with a blackthorn stick, a moon in her ear, waning or waxing she could not say, or I did not ask perhaps ...

Overdoing the Synge-song

Terry Eagleton: Sebastian Barry, 22 September 2011

On Canaan’s Side 
by Sebastian Barry.
Faber, 256 pp., £16.99, August 2011, 978 0 571 22653 5
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... coincides with the clamorous rise of bourgeois Italy. In a series of works over the past decade, Sebastian Barry has captured the flow and recoil of modern Irish history in the blighted destinies of the Dunne family. Taken together, The Steward of Christendom, Annie Dunne, A Long Long Way and now On Canaan’s Side constitute a kind of Oresteia of ...

One would think the deep to be hoary

Oliver Reynolds, 5 September 1985

... for Sebastian Barry Possible seals disappearing far-out off Pembrokeshire, sleek commas suddenly lost in the sea’s murky prose, came back to me (memories taking a year to surface) as we returned at midnight from the Laird and Dog. It was our daily goal, two poets retreating from a Writers’ Retreat to beer’s bitter salve ...

Kay Demarest’s War

Penelope Fitzgerald, 17 September 1987

The Other Garden 
by Francis Wyndham.
Cape, 106 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 224 02475 2
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The Engine of Owl-Light 
by Sebastian Barry.
Carcanet, 390 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 704 9
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A Singular Attraction 
by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02438 8
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Cold Spring Harbor 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 182 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 413 14420 8
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The Changeling 
by Catharine Arnold.
Hodder, 223 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 340 40542 2
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... can wholly appreciate it’, which makes most readers feel that they’re too late to qualify. Sebastian Barry is a poet who has written a novel, so we must see what we can do. Owl-light is peculiar to Celtic countries, and in this novel it is shining under a disused road bridge in ‘a small sewer of a place’ in Co. Sligo, where ‘the best nights ...

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Clair Wills: Modern Irish History, 3 July 2008

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change c.1970-2000 
by R.F. Foster.
Penguin, 228 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 0 14 101765 5
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... book-buying public at home, but for a huge diasporic audience. Whether the w0rk of Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín, Patrick McCabe and Dermot Bolger constitutes a ‘new direction in Irish fiction’ is less certain. The major trope of Irish fiction is certainly no longer Modernist paralysis but change – Tóibín’s second novel, The ...

An Octopus at the Window

Terry Eagleton: Dermot Healy, 19 May 2011

Long Time, No See 
by Dermot Healy.
Faber, 438 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 21074 9
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... of the North) but a good deal more cold-eyed than anything one would expect to find in the work of Sebastian Barry. Like Jack Ferris, the drunken protagonist of A Goat’s Song, Ireland binged for a few euphoric years, then woke up with an almighty hangover. The champions of progress have accordingly been forced to confront the uglier aspects of ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... of Anglo-Irish tensions, and to see him ultimately as a martyr for the cause, a cross between St Sebastian and Kevin Barry, which is how Stephen Rea made him appear in Terry Eagleton’s play St Oscar. Kiberd’s reading remains tentative and convincing, but he is forced to leave a great deal out, such as Wilde’s ...

Darkness and so on and on

Adam Mars-Jones: Kate Atkinson, 6 June 2013

Life after Life 
by Kate Atkinson.
Doubleday, 477 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 385 61867 0
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... life at Fox Corner, but not all that much. Sylvie takes in two boys displaced from their homes, Barry and Bobby, and Ursula notices that though Sylvie treats them well they aren’t regarded as individuals. Everyone but Sylvie refers to them simply as ‘the evacuees’, ‘as if they were entirely defined by their status’. All the same, they aren’t ...

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