Daniel Soar

  • That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern
    Faber, 298 pp, £16.99, January 2002, ISBN 0 571 21216 6

The setting is a lake in Leitrim, near the beginnings of the River Shannon, not far from the Border. The nearest town isn’t referred to by name, though if you spend long enough looking at the right map (Ordnance Survey of Ireland, 1:50,000 Discovery Series, No. 33, top right-hand corner) you will see Shruhaun, the village on the way to it. If you head away from the lake in one direction you will pass the village, which has two bars and an abbey; then the unnamed town, which might be Fenagh, or maybe Garvagh; then Dromod, the end of the branch line, the station having survived because of the local coal; then Rooskey, on the edge of Co. Roscommon, with its bridge over the river; until at last you get to Roscommon town, somewhere you might have heard of. John McGahern’s new novel demands a kind of triangulation if you’re to make sense of it. Carrick-on-Shannon is (perhaps) a short drive away; in the other direction you’ll get to Longford in a while. If you don’t try to make sense of it, the barely mentioned place-names can only remind you how lost you are.

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