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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

3 chapters from Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark could stand alone

There's yet another twist in the multi-layered and mysterious plot in Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark, as the narrator learns more about his family history, a tragic history that centers on the disappearance of his Uncle Eddie, suspected of being an informer for the police in Northern Ireland. As the novel progresses and as the narrator recounts the course of his childhood, from about age 5 through (in section 4) age 18, more pieces the story fall into place, that is, the narrator gradually learns more about the fate of his uncle and of his entire family; what makes this dawning knowledge and this entire narrative especially compelling and even unique, is that the young boy is learning things that his parents don't even know - they each know pieces of the story, but he's the only one to begin to put together all the pieces - in this tale that involves Protestant-Catholic rivalries during the "troubles," police informants, double-crossing, rivalry between sisters, troubled marriages - altogether, a story with a lot of depth and dimension, but told in beautiful, accessible, and sometimes hilarious short chapters, each like an essay or a very short story unto itself. How much Deane must have saved up over the course of his life! (He was about 55 when this novel was published, and to my knowledge it is his only novel - I suspect it may be sat unpublished for a long time and maybe found its rightful audience thanks to the success of Frank McCourt's memoirs, but that's just a guess.) One of the hilarious chapters, by the way, is on religious instruction, and it makes a great triad w/ 2 of the other chapters that describe Catholic school in N.Ireland in the 1950s - Maths Lessons and the Facts of Life: these 3 chapters could be read on their own and would in themselves be a masterwork, but they're all the more impressive as part of the weave of this rich novel.

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