….there is also Johnston….

March 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Great for Book Clubs, Literary Fiction | 1 Comment

Jennifer Johnston ‘Truth or Fiction’ Headline Review, 2009

There is Banville, Tobin, Barry, Trevor and McGahern …but there is also Johnston.  Where some of these male literary heavyweights have shined in documenting Ireland of the 1940’s & 1950’s through their novels, and have received much acclaim for this, the evolved writing of Jennifer Johnston has moved through and worked with Ireland’s passing times with grace. I for one listen with close attention when she has something to say through a novel and this latest one upholds her well deserved place in Irish literary fiction.  ‘Truth or Fiction’, her nineteenth novel, explores the palpable ideas of memory, age and marriage through the story of English journalist Caroline Wallace. When Caroline is despatched by her editor to interview ninety year-old Desmond Fitzmaurice, a prolific Irish writer living in Kiliney, her own life is put into context by the tumultuous relationships she discovers between Desmond, his wife and his ex-wife. He has tape recordings made over his ninety years he pushes for Caroline to listen to but all she wants to do is a standard interview for her editor and get home. Desmond’s behavior towards the women in his life makes Caroline wonder if he is selfish or senile?  Are his grandiose stories truth or fiction?  Are the endless glasses of whiskey he drinks brining out history or a history he wishes he had? A handful of characters, a slow burning plot and eloquent language work like a symphony together here.  This novel, like her many others, will make you use your head, your heart and your intuition. Whereas many of Johnston’s contemporaries address specific ideas at a specific time in Ireland, Johnston has broached many ideas and has gone to places in her novels her contemporaries haven’t dared to over the years. It is rumored to be a thinly veiled story about Johnston’s own heavily private father the playwright Denis Johnston. How is the main character Caroline’s life put into context by the end of the novel? Well the story begins with a marriage proposal and you’ll have to treat yourself to the book to find out the answer….

Haiku; Jennifer Johnston, new story set in Ireland, whose plot travels far

Click here to view this book on Amazon.com

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Sarah. While messers like Toibin take a break from the cider ads to plod along in the dull 1950s, Jennifer Johnston is a big established name who is tackling modern Ireland in her work, and tackling it very well too. It’s a wonderful book, and your review gets to the heart of what makes it so special.


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