Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ireland by Frank Delaney

Having visited Ireland with my friend Rosemarie M. Larson five years ago, I can honestly say that it is a gorgeous country, from what I saw of it. Waterford was my particular favorite, but every place we stayed had its own magnificence. The people were fascinating, too, and being the people-watcher that I am, I found them a garrulous and interesting lot. We were fortunate to find taxi drivers who were kind and generous with their advice for keeping out of trouble in their green and pleasant land. Because Rosemarie and I were both history majors, we were overwhelmed, at times, with the feeling of ancient history that breathes up from the cobblestones on the streets of Dublin and each town we visited.
Therefore I was a bit trepidatious about the book "Ireland" because I wondered if the author would be able to capture the glory and history and wonder of his country within 600 pages of a book.
I'm happy to report that Frank Delaney did a perfectly marvelous job of bringing the important moments of Irish history to life through the eyes of a storyteller and a young boy, Ronan, who becomes fascinated with him. Though a bit wild in his emotions, Ronan was an interesting person who the reader really felt empathy for, due to his cold mother and her hateful ways. The fact that his aunt and his father were so lovely certainly helped him, but it becomes evident that they shouldn't have cocooned him from the world so much, as he was rather too naive.
The storyteller was a wonderful, layered character, enigmatic and yet full of a love of his native land and its history. I won't spoil the book for you by explaining his life or why he took to the road, as that's part of the mystery that is solved at the end of the book. I did see all the revelations coming, to be fair, about a third of the way through the book...I knew what was going to happen. But I suspect that was part of the authors plan. I think he telegraphs his revelations because he wants us to know more than the narrator, Ronan.
The one problem I had with the book was when things weren't spelled out as quickly as I would have liked, or as clearly. For example, the storytellers name, you must assume, as they never actually come out and say it. I also do not think there was enough time or effort spent on the domination of Ireland and its culture by the Catholic Church, and how cruel that domination became until very recently. Having seen the movie "The Magdalene Sisters" and watching the institutionalized brutality of the Catholic Church, I was horrified and disgusted that they didn't disband those houses of horror until the late 80s, and the last one closed in 1996! Unbelievable that in this day and age, such slavery existed and was condoned by the church. Personally, I think that if the Catholic Church hadn't dominated Ireland for so many years, destroying much of their early culture, the British wouldn't have had such an easy time of trying to immolate the Irish and whatever culture was left to them. It's a testament to the courage and tenacity of the Irish people that their culture and people did survive, and didn't succumb to British mores and way of life.
At any rate, I highly recommend the book, Ireland, by Frank Delaney, to all who are fascinated by the Emerald Isle and its people.

No comments: