It is only January and I have already enjoyed the work of two local authors who have produced two must read books.
One is a long awaited return from an Irish literary great, and the other is a memoir written by one of our more prolific, modern authors.
Fiction v’s Non-fiction – MacLaverty v’s O’Farrell
Bernard v’s Maggie – Midwinter Break v’s I am, I am, I am
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty is a slow moving, account of the demise of Gerry and Stella’s marriage. Written from both points of view the story reveals Gerry’s descent into alcoholism, and the ripples caused by a past traumatic event in Belfast. The story plays out against a back drop of current day Amsterdam (the midwinter break) and Northern Ireland during the troubles. Cue lots of little mentions and references which Northern Irelanders will love, and, because Gerry is a retired Architect enjoy the descriptions of Amsterdam buildings.
This is the authors fifth novel and it was 16 years in the making. The plot strolls purposefully forward with some comic moments, Gerry hiding his whisky bottles, and heart break, Stella realising her visit to Amsterdam hasn’t played out as she planned. The climax is tense and I was completely invested in finding out how it would end. MacLaverty uses this story about a couple to mirror our political situation – we have a traumatic past, we are still dealing with the ripples – will the ending be optimistic or a defeat? I hop e the net novel doesn’t take another 16 years, although if it does i’m sure it will be worth the wait.
On the otherhand
I am , I am, I am is the the latest book by Maggie O’Farrell. Full disclosure – I love Maggie O’Farrell and her writing so this woudl have to be terrible for me to dislike it – however I have only ever read her fiction and this is a memoir. A memoir which takes the form of short story style chapters all detailing moments where she was close to death. Whether an accident or medical problem O’Farrell’s near death experience amount to 17. So thats 17 chapters or drowning / close shaves / hospital nightmares which will not be appealing to all readers. I recommend taking some breaks and not devouring the book in one go to let yourself recover from the torment. Knowing that all the stories are true make is worse.
I love it when two local authors blow my mind with two very different books. What a great month for literature.
I know these books have majorly divided opinion – through chats at book club and on the old bookstagram, but I think you should pick them up. Both offer a Northern Ireland point of view, with eloquent writing.
Keep track of the books I am reading here at my bookish Instagram account – Books Northern Ireland.
Buy Midwinter Break here.
Buy I am, I am, I am here.