(From the Irish Times, 8/19.)
The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen (1929)
Set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, Elizabeth Bowen’s novel was published less than a decade after the conflict had ended. Noting the huge impact it had on her as a writer, Bowen says in a preface to the work that of all her books and short stories The Last September was “nearest to my heart, and had a deep, unclouded, spontaneous source. It is a work of instinct rather than knowledge.” Centred on the lives of the Naylor family, resident in the Cork country mansion Danielstown, the book is big house fiction at its best.
Without my Cloak, Kate O’Brien (1931)
A Victorian family saga, O’Brien’s debut novel tells the story of an upper class Irish Catholic household from the fictional town of Mellick. Set in the 1870s and drawing heavily on the author’s Limerick background, the book was awarded the James Tait Memorial Prize for its powerful portrait of family life and the tensions that exist between duty and self-fulfilment. The Considine dynasty begins with horse-thief Anthony and is passed down to his son Honest John and again to John’s eight children, each of whom must come to terms with their role within the clan.
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