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That They May Face the Rising Sun Paperback – 20 Jan 2003

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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: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

Review

'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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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Herman Norford on 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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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By KENNETH MURRAY on 12 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By millicentlyd on 16 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
It must be just me, as I see that I am the only person to be writing a five star review. I have read this book four times. It is my number one Desert Island Book. I love a book that I can read slowly just as much as one I want to read fast. It is true in every phrase, perfect in every sentence, eye-opening, poignant. I feel as if I have been living with these characters for a decade. I wish I was there at Gloria Bog with them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By F. Griffiths VINE VOICE on 4 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
A book club choice which I originally resisted thinking this would be as dark as his other books. This one is much gentler and lyrical about the countryside and the cycle of life. His eye especially for falseness is very accurate but he ezpresses it without cruelty. A book about ordinary people beautifully written and very engaging.
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