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That They May Face the Rising Sun [Paperback]

John McGahern
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Jan 2003

Considered by many to be the finest Irish writer now working in prose, John McGahern's That They May Face the Rising Sun vividly brings to life a whole world and its people with insight and humour and deep sympathy.

Joe and Kate Ruttledge have come to Ireland from London in search of a different life. In passages of beauty and truth, the drama of a year in their lives and those of the memorable characters that move about them unfolds through the action, the rituals of work, religious observances and play. By the novel's close we feel that we have been introduced, with deceptive simplicity, to a complete representation of existence - an enclosed world has been transformed into an Everywhere.

'It is a simple and ordinary story, calmly, wryly crafted with subtle detail - and therein lies McGahern's genius. As sharply, brilliantly observed as any he has written . . . McGahern, a supreme chronicler of the ordinary . . . has created a novel that lives and breathes as convincingly as the characters who inhabit it.' Irish Times

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (20 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571212212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571212217
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Irish writer John McGahern's first new novel in 12 years, That They May Face the Rising Sun, is a work of delicately forged beauty, the nearest he has yet come to writing of happiness. The plot remains defiantly not the thing for McGahern, with little of consequence happening beyond life's natural syncopations, yet the nuances of language and relationship soar as gracefully as the abundant wildfowl that crowd the book's pages. News is the old currency, carried in the dialogue which remains McGahern's most discernible talent. Set in rural County Leitrim, the inhabitants of the houses around the lake and the local town, heady on the whiskey elixir that loosens tongues or seals deals, watch as their insular community is gently pummelled by the creeping advance of modern life. While they share the year's natural cycle, the unfolding months reveal their personal differences: Joe and Kate Ruttledge, returned after a long spell in London; Mary and Jamesie, their whole life lived there; John Quinn, the charming, brutal womaniser, who marries and loses as quickly the bride he finds at the Knock Marriage Bureau; The Shah, Kate's uncle, who wordlessly sells his business to his cripplingly honest assistant, Frank; and Jimmy Joe Kiernan, auctioneer and undertaker, a veteran IRA man still on the lookout for stray souls. And then there is Jamesie's brother Joseph, the best shot in the district, who went to England after a woman, and stayed there, his soul sold for the "alphabetical" order of English life.

There is little alphabetical to McGahern's view of life, though there is consummate poetry. His narrative quietly rumbles out its melody through gentle variance, undulating conversations over the restless scars of violent pasts and fractured presents, the Troubles only ever across the nearby border. Stories are for the re-telling, yet the intrusion of telephone wires and Blind Date merely formalises the inevitable, the secularisation of ritual, and the dying of belief, if not yet habit. Already acclaimed as one of Ireland's leading writers for works such as High Ground and Amongst Women, to read this offering is to appreciate the unique beauty of the novel form, and the rare, bewitching talent of John McGahern. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Quite exquisite... changes the whole character of fiction.' Sunday Telegraph 'A luminous new novel from Ireland's greatest living novelist.' Observer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of days and weeks and years 4 Mar 2002
By A Customer
The mellowing of John McGahern continues with this latest novel, his first for twelve years. McGahern's early work, both long and short fiction, is characterised by a sense of repressed emotion in his characters and a bleak take on "the human condition". But here he continues on from where he left off in "Amongst Women" with a less suffocating exposition of the situations his characters live their lives in. True, we are still presented with a locale which is remote and unchanging and characters who find themselves shackled by either youthful errors of judgment or the habits of a lifetime. Yet it is the upbeat side of these habits of a lifetime which concerns McGahern latterly: the regularity of people's behaviour, the repetition and routine of days and weeks and years.
Perhaps, the novel is lesser in stature for the lack of any real plot or narrative drive and we are left wondering about some lesser-described characters, so vividly evoked are the ones we are introduced to. What, for example, is the fuller story of Jimmy Joe Kiernan?
Beautifully-written, in that familiar spare and unpretentious literary style of McGahern's, it is engaging throughout but there are nevertheless some especially startling (the first wedding of John Quinn) and touching (the ad hoc preparations for a wake) sections.
For those unfamiliar with McGahern, everything he has ever written is recommended but this, a further maturing of his genius, is his best yet and is definitely an early contender for this Autumn's literary prizes.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another beautiful masterpiece from Mr McGahern 12 Mar 2002
As an antidote to the blare of modern living, Mr McGahern's new novel can hardly be more strongly recommended. The gentle ripple of the prose makes you feel, having read it, that you have been given the secret of time and its passing, without the necessary expenditure of years.
As regards the apparent lack of plot, I would say it has no more and no less plot than any of our own lives. And while it is true that some of the characters may not have all their backgrounds filled in, I think we have all the background we need. Even in relation to some people we might consider important to us, we usually don't have all the background we might want.
I rather think these features are an integral part of the spell the author conjures. He makes you feel you are a special kind of witness to all the goings on. As usual with Mr McGahern, the human faults are delicious to behold. But the lasting value is again found in the subtlety with which he captures the everyday heroism implicit in humility.
The book is about life in an unheralded corner of Ireland and it is about everywhere. Anyone interested in truly great fiction should read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rural Life Laid Bare 28 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Set in county Leitrim, Southern Ireland; John McGahern's "That They May Face The Rising Sun" is the story of a number of characters living in a rural setting. The story covers about one year in the1980's and focuses on the lives of Joe and Kate Ruttledge. The Ruttledges decide to live in Ireland after a period living in the contrasting setting of a city. They soon become the hub of life in their new rural home. Without any clear plot, what McGahern does is through his eyes as narrator allows us to observe characters entering the lives of the Ruttledges, interacting with each other and going about the business of rural life.

McGahern's characters and the rural landscape are well observed and depicted. His characters are fully realised. As McGahern takes us back and forth in their lives, one gets the impression of literally hearing his characters voices. However, what I did not like about McGahern's characters is that as he broadly restricts their lives to the rural setting one gets a sense of lives that are over determined. There is almost no autonomy, the characters respond to the events that unfold around them.

The rural landscape is beautifully captured with a recurring motif of an ever present lake. In one passage we are told: "They turned away. The surface of the water out from the reeds was alive with shoals of small fish. There were many swans on the lake. A grey boat was fishing along the far shore. A pair of herons moved sluggishly through the air between the trees of the Island and Gloria Bog." The passage continues in this wonderful descriptive manner.

McGahern's structure is one in which he presents us with a series of vignettes in which his characters reflect upon their lives or set about some task.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure pleasure to read 9 Jan 2002
By A Customer
John McGahern is a wonderful writer. This book is a hommage to a lifestyle that not many Irish people know any more. Set in rural Ireland, most of the characters are from a farming community and farming and rural life are lovingly depicted. Descriptions are wonderfully vivid, both of nature and landscape and the carrying out of routine tasks and chores. If the right director got his/her hands on this book and turned it in to a film, one could imagine a film of great beauty.
The characters are well developed and dialogue is wonderful, catching the wit and wonderful turns of phrase that still exist in rural Ireland.
This is a book you could read twice in a row and still enjoy. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, powerful and compelling
This is rural life beside a lake in Ireland which is enchanting. There is no narrative. Events occur to the newcomers, the natives, the institutionalized and the departed, who... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jane M Hogg
4.0 out of 5 stars Addictive vividness of real life.
A lyrical evocation of ordinary life in rural Donegal (I think)... McGahern introduces us gently to a small community living around a lake and in a nearby town. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Pelagius
5.0 out of 5 stars gentle and beautiful
This book is so beautiful and gentle in its description of rural Ireland, without a trace of rose-tinting or mawkishness.
Published 19 months ago by Siobhan Dennehy
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable and touching
I absolutely loved it and in fact read it twice. I agreed with the reviewer who kept from reading the last twenty pages because he wanted to stay beside the lake with those... Read more
Published on 11 Sep 2009 by Mrs. Katharine Kirby
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle Giant
A wonderful book, spellbinding in it's gentleness, and empathy. Ambient literature, the verbal equivalent of Stars Of the Lid. Absolutely recommended. :)
Published on 24 Nov 2007 by Mr. L. P. Hynes
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, poetic, wonderful
As someone who hails from the midlands of Ireland, this book struck me as the most authentic rendering of the type of life I remember from my childhood visits to my grandmother's... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2007 by H. Eaton
1.0 out of 5 stars Not waving but drowning
I fully endorse the comments made by "A Reader" - this is dreadful. What might have just have made it as a cutesy short story in a Sunday broadsheet has been elongated to breaking... Read more
Published on 17 April 2006 by Cicero
5.0 out of 5 stars quietly beautiful
While most literary writers leave me cold for precisely the reason that they cannot come up with a decent plot, that this has no discerible plot made absolutely no difference to... Read more
Published on 6 Dec 2005 by Tom
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet Joy
This is a marvellous novel. I would say that it has become one of my favourite novels. It is a book that may be read and re-read, each reading prompting new understanding and... Read more
Published on 5 July 2005
1.0 out of 5 stars Put on your rose-coloured spectacles...
I only read this book through to the end because the reading group were reading it. If you want to read a bland testament to a time that only exists in the memory of a writer who... Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2005
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