Dancing at Lughnasa Hardcover – 1993
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I had to though, as is is a set book for my upcoming Open University A230 'Reading and Studying Literature', which will be my last module at Level 2 (having just finished A215 'Creative Writing ... not that you need to know this!).
The front cover is appealing, and is the reason I dragged it off the reading pile in the first place - the dress seems genteel and is set in juxtaposition to the black wellingtons.
The theme of A230 is home and away, and after reading this short text I can see why it was added to the list. Not only is the home/away theme running through it, but also religion/paganism, responsibility/irresponsibility, setting rules/breaking rules and the face you project/the way you are perceived.
All round a very interesting text, if slightly intellectual read. Interestingly, especially so if you are studying, or interested in, humanities and the human condition.
The other Mundy sisters help illustrate the chasm between Kate's attitudes and those of Fr. Jack. Maggie, the fun-loving, free-spirited, and most humorous of the sisters, constantly bursts into song and dance and longs to go to the town dance. Christina feels no shame whatever about her love-child and thoroughly enjoys the summer visit of his father, Gerry Evans, with whom she dances spontaneously. Aggie and Rose, who earn small wages knitting gloves, work tirelessly as the family's sad, "unpaid servants," constantly chafing against Kate's imposition of her own values on them. Rose, described as "simple," is in love with a married man and sneaks out to have fun with him. When the local priest fails to rehire Kate because of Fr. Jack's apparent paganism, the family is devastated, but it is at that moment that they recognize the need to celebrate life itself.
The narrator is Michael, Christina's love-child, now in his fifties, who sets the scene and comments on the action throughout. Though Michael himself participates in the action as a child, the child is invisible to the audience. The characters speak to him as if he were real, and the adult Michael responds, but to the actors on stage, it is the narrator who is invisible. The message of the play is far stronger here than in its film version, starring Meryl Streep. In the play Kate is more hostile, and the fates of Aggie and Rose are revealed early, not withheld till the end. Fr. Jack's paganism is not regarded simply as mental illness, and the "clan of the round collar" is held to closer scrutiny. The play, though dark, is ultimately a joyful celebration of life itself, a life not bound by organized religion. Mary Whipple
the review of the print version probably gives you most of the detail you need to know about the play itself-but just some thoughts: read and reread Michaels monologues really carefully-but only they are very unusual dramatic device (not unique though) but they highlight and foreground the play's key theme, which the me is memory. Michael's memory of his childhood runs parallel to the audience's memory of the idyllic innocence of 1930s song popularised the British audiences probably most memorably by the TV series Pennies From Heaven. Don't forget the dramatic irony that the audience knows that this limited, provisional idyll is doomed as the war which comes in 1939 will physically pass neutral Ireland by, but change everything in its path otherwise. Make sure you read the article on the play in the Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel. Good luck!
For me, there is NOTHING to compare with seeing the Play in person. It is a very specific medium. So, this book is not like a book of fiction or a biography. Speaking personally, it would be hard for me to visualise the interactions, which are totally delightful, from reading this book alone.
So, when you open the book, you see the dialogue between the characters.
I believe the movie, starring Meryl Streep, which I have not seen, is different. Much would be lost from Stage to screen.
I would recommend this book to anyone about to see the Play or to anyone who has seen the Play.
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