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Book Title: The Barracks|
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Reader ratings: 6.6
The author of the book: John McGahern
Date of issue: October 5th 1998
ISBN 13: 9780571119905
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 547 KB
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John McGahern was twenty-nine when this, his first and somewhat autobiographical novel, was published, as he was in fact raise in a small Garda Síochána (the Irish national police force, in English, the "Civil Guards") barracks. And like the children in the novel, his mother died when he was very young.
But this isn't a coming-of-age novel; the main characters are all adults, particularly the Sargeant, Reegan, and his second wife, Elizabeth. A veteran of the Irish War of Independence and its horric follow up, the Civil War, Reegan was a leader of men in his youth who idealistically joined the nascant nation's police service only to become embittered and disillusioned by the pettiness and officiousness of his superiors and the monotony of his duties in a quiet backwater in Co. Roscommon. In the stultifying moral atmosphere of 1950s Ireland, Reegan and Elizabeth has no outlet for their emotions which eat at their souls much like the cancer that Elizabeth contracts eats away at her body.
Significantly, the majority of the novel is the interior monologue of Elizabeth. We learn of Reegan's reticence as well as his hopes and fears, from his wife. We learn next to nothing about Reegan's life outside the chronology of the book, but much about Elizabeth as a young nurse working in London during the Blitz and immediately afterwards.
This is a powerful book, but seems somewhat dated. The Ireland that McGahern wrote about with such ferocity is no more. Not even in memory, for McGahern's last novel—That They May Face the Rising Sun (published as The Lake in the U.S.) finds him in the same landscape, older, wiser, perhaps more resigned and certainly more in tune with the ebb and flow of the rural year.
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Read information about the authorMcGahern began his career as a schoolteacher at Scoil Eoin Báiste (Belgrove) primary school in Clontarf, Ireland, where, for a period, he taught the eminent academic Declan Kiberd before turning to writing full-time. McGahern's second novel 'The Dark' was banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied clerical sexual abuse. In the controversy over this he was forced to resign his teaching post. He subsequently moved to England where he worked in a variety of jobs before returning to Ireland to live and work on a small farm in Fenagh in County Leitrim, located halfway between Ballinamore and Mohill. His third novel 'Amongst Women' was shortlisted for the 1990 Man Booker Prize.
He died from cancer in Dublin on March 30, 2006.
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