Review of Books
A selection of recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.
Jennifer Egan is best known for her 2006 novel The Keep, but her works also include a short story collection and two previous novels. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Egan is recognizable for her genre-bending style that lays a fresh backdrop to vivid realism. Her 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad has been critically lauded and beloved by her many fans, with highlights that include a section of narrative made up brilliantly of Powerpoint slides and an anthropological take on a wealthy older man bringing his grad student girlfriend on an African safari with his two children. Creating a whole that is larger than a collection of linked stories, Goon Squad slides easily from the voices of San Francisco punks Bennie, Alice, Scotty and Jocelyn in the 1980s, to a twenty-something kleptomaniac, Sasha, with her therapist in New York, and then to Sasha’s daughter, many years later, growing up in an uncanny, terrifying and eerily believable imagined near-future.
The characters’ interlinked lives, spanning half a century, create a dizzying picture of cultural evolution and individual decay, in a postmodern epic well deserving of the buzz and critical acclaim Egan has enjoyed thus far.
– Kara Rota
(288 p. / Knopf / $25.95)
After reading Tana French’s gripping second novel, The Likeness, I should have expected that her new Dublin Murder Squad mystery would keep me equally in its grasp. Faithful Place, named after the Dublin neighborhood where detective Frank Mackey grew up in a tangle of fighting parents, drunken brawls and family secrets, does not disappoint. It holds at its core the gorgeous mystery of first love, full of infinite promise gone horribly wrong. Frank, who has stayed away from his family and childhood home for twenty-two years, is drawn back by a frantic phone call from the one sister he hasn’t shut out, Jackie, and news of evidence that might shed light on the disappearance of Rosie Daly, a spitfire nineteen-year-old, on the night she and Frank had planned to elope to England and start a new life together working for rock bands.
Caught between his identities as undercover cop and prodigal son, Frank is forced to confront the consequences of the possibility that, rather than standing him up on that night long ago, Rosie had been intercepted and their teenage dream violently put to an end. When Frank’s young daughter Holly begins to ask precocious questions that involve her in a mystery begun long before her birth, Frank is reminded that, as William Faulkner put it, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Tana French is the bestselling author of In the Woods, which won the Edgar, Barry, Macavity, and Anthony awards, and of The Likeness. She grew up in Ireland, Italy, Malawi, and the United States, and trained as an actor at Trinity College, Dublin. She lives in Dublin with her husband and daughter.
– Kara Rota
(416 p. / Viking / $25.95)
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