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Widely considered to be the finest Irish writer of fiction at work today, John McGahern gives us a new novel that, with insight, humor, and deep sympathy, brings to vivid life the world and the people of a contemporary Irish village.
It is a village flirting with the more sophisticated trappings of modernity but steeped in the traditions of its unforgettable inhabitants and their lives. There are the Ruttledges, who came from London in search of a different life on the edge of the village lake; John Quinn, who will stop at nothing to ensure a flow of women through his life; Jimmy Joe McKiernan, head of the local IRA as well as town auctioneer and undertaker; the gentle Jamesie and his wife, Mary, who have never left the lake and who know about everything that ever stirred or moved there; Patrick Ryan, the builder who never quite finishes what he starts; Bill Evans, the farmhand whose orphaned childhood was marked with state-sanctioned cruelties and whose adulthood is marked by the scars; and the wealthiest man in town, known as the Shah.
A year in the lives of these and other characters unfolds through the richly observed rituals of work and play, of religious observance and annual festivals, and the details of the changing seasons, of the cycles of birth and death. With deceptive simplicity and eloquence, the author reveals the fundamental workings of human nature as it encounters the extraordinary trials and pleasures, terrors and beauty, of ordinary life.
By the Lake is John McGahern’s most ambitious, generous, and superbly realized novel yet.
“Ranks with the greatest Irish writers: Joyce, Yeats, Synge, Beckett, Heaney.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Subtly intricate. . . . McGahern’s achievement in this autumnal novel is to remind us how much even a happy life can know of sorrow.” —The Atlantic Monthly
“Deceptively wise. . . . Possesses the warm certainty of a writer who loves and respects every character . . . rascals and heroes alike, and who wants to deliver them to us in all their dimensions.” —The Boston Globe
“The most perfect novel I’ve read in years.” —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
“Ireland’s finest living fiction writer. . . .A gripping, poignant book.” —Chicago Tribune
“Wonderful. . . . No body of water has been so lovingly revered since Henry David Thoreau went to the woods.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Has the appeal of a letter from home. . . . Wonderfully engaging.” —Newsday
“His lyrical, almost painterly evocation of the activities he knows so intimately is well-displayed here.” —The Washington Post
“McGahern's luminous threnody to the particulars and permutations of aging and change is captured in prose of the utmost simplicity and precision.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“This great and moving novel, which looks so quiet and provincial, opens out through its small frame to our most troubling and essential questions.” —The Guardian
“One of Ireland's most stupendous prose stylists, with an uncanny knack of homing in on the definitive moment, the illuminating detail.” —The Independent
“This beautiful novel . . . bestows on the reader one of the principal gifts of fiction: that of having one's experience enlarged by a process of intense, almost resistless sympathy. Through intense concentration on the local, McGahern has again found a route to the universal.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“A superb, earthly pastoral . . . a knowing, quick-witted performance . . . McGahern, a supreme chronicler [of] the closing chapters of traditional Irish rural life, has created a novel that lives and breathes.” —The Irish Times
“When nature is rendered as vividly as this, it changes the character of fiction . . . McGahern has captured the ties of custom and affection that bind people to the land-and to each other.” —Sunday Telegraph (London)