This book, published in the USA under the title By the Lake, was the late John McGahern's last novel.
It is a beautiful, slow-moving book that mirrors the gentle rhythm of rural life and brims with a subdued love of nature.
In its depiction of the changing seasons and the farming calendar -- the birth of lambs, the cutting of hay -- it tells an almost universal story about humankind and its relationship to the land and the climate. But this is more than a book about what it is like to live in the Irish countryside. It also tells an important, often overlooked tale, of how humans interact with each other when they live in small communities.
That They May Face The Rising Sun is brought alive by a cast
of intriguing, some might say eccentric, characters, although it mainly
revolves around a pair of middle-aged outsiders -- Kate and Joe, who
fled the London rat race to try a gentler way of living. Over the
course of a year we learn about their ups and downs, their hopes and
fears, the ways in which they lead their quiet lives on a day-to-day
basis and the people they befriend along the way.
There is little action to drive the narrative forward. Instead the reader comes to know -- and appreciate -- the rituals of rural living that inch this story along. Aided by McGahern's calm, meditative prose, it's hard not to be emotionally affected by the simplicity -- and realism -- of the story. I loved every word.
This book was chosen for discussion in Reading Matters Online Book Group (Session 9) in January 2007.
Other books by John McGahern reviewed on this site: