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Old 4th Feb 2008, 1:58   #11
Beth
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

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Their life with him helped determine who they were. Some rejected him; most accepted him in one way or another.

I think I know exactly where I would be... or is that the one I'd like to be?
Yes, he defined them all, didn't he. Now I'm curious, Ang. Is it Luke?

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What did others reckon to the mention (twice, I think) of Moran's "Irish nature" and fear of starvation/the workhouse, as a partial reason to his brutal domination of the family?
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Surely, it wasn't just me: didn't you also long for her or someone - anyone - to just bop the bloody thug on his unlovely nose and tell him to grow up?! I know I did. But the frustration I mentioned earlier, wasn't that Moran was allowed to get away with his appalling behaviour, but that we were never given reasons as to why he was such a tortured soul... McGahern doesn't shine a light on the hows and whys of these characters at all. And that for me was a real weakness. Just a hint, that's all I wanted, just a few flashbacks that might suggest what had made Moran and Rose the way they were when we meet them.
It wasn't just you, HP. In fact, for a minute a little hope sprang in me that Michael might administer some good old frontier style justice before he left home that first time! I was curious as you are about McGahern's meaning in all this. I spent part of this afternoon reading more as well, but took a different route in an attempt to understand the various attempts at Irish Home Rule, a theme that was mentioned along the way. Oh lordy! All I could gain was a very rudimentary understanding of how the Northern Irish counties became separate. And that the novel takes place after the fourth attempt at home rule, a time period between 1922 and 1970. This ties in with your thought about the importance of family and the separation and rule of each individual unit that corresponds with the idea of Home Rule. Very simplistic is my grasp of all this! But I think in creating a character, Luke, who successfully leaves the Family, McGahern is saying much about attempts to squelch individuality and independence. So complicated, because I don't know enough to fully make the leap and compare Home Rule to oppression. It also seems that he's also certainly alluding to a heavy- handed Church here.

But the thought that came to me foremost about all this, especially after reading about the brutality of McGahern's father, is that there's more often than not an utter absence of reason or understanding for this type of abusive individual. They just seem to be, as impenetrable as solid matter. As in Col's question about whether famine could have created a Moran. That would have been in some respect easier to digest than the full-on, unapologetic, unaware bully that McGahern gives us. And for that reason I suppose I'm glad that he didn't dilute the characterization in any way by explanation. Like Luke, I found myself wanting to turn away from this character, escape the novel and that claustrophobic sense of relentless tension it generates so well. Like Ang, I really appreciate the strength and firmness of Luke's character when he says 'I hold no grudge. That would be stupid. But I have a good memory.' Also, on p. 155, when Luke says definitively, 'I left Ireland a long time ago.' Somewhere this afternoon I read an interpretation of Luke as also being cruel. I didn't see him as such, but wonder how the rest of you see Luke. Another thing I thought of was this song. But not the bad video
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Old 4th Feb 2008, 7:38   #12
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

I agree, HP, that the reasons McGahern gives could not have created a Moran, but these things mentioned I thought were a dishonest way to influence us into accepting his behaviour even a little. Not that I've no mercy here but the irresolute nature of Moran's pride - the kind that does damage - and repression was rather overwhelming, as everyone here seems to have found in some degree. It's that I was puzzled by the author's intention there.

I was wanting to know the "something more", both for Moran and for Luke: *something* must have happened, even incrementally to isolate Moran from his community, and his social skills (put bluntly!) to disappear. Similarly, I was waiting for some kind of showdown from Luke but none of them faced Moran, no-one truly spoke the truth to him at any point. This was frustrating - but was it too frustrating and unnatural for the book to round off without this happening?
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Old 4th Feb 2008, 8:32   #13
Ang
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

I doubt there is or was any particular reason Moran was like he was - he just was. I know people like him. They think saying the rosary every night makes everything okay. They feel superior because of their piety. And they're not always men.
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Old 4th Feb 2008, 8:45   #14
John Self
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

I haven't re-read the book yet so am foggy on the details in a way that you guys are not, but ... I do remember liking the fact that for once we are not given all the reasoning and 'backstory' to explain Moran. For once I would like to read a book which presents people to us without explaining them away - just as we meet bizarre or horrible people in real life without understanding their background. Three cheers for that aspect from me.
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Old 4th Feb 2008, 9:08   #15
HP
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

Ah, I think it's probably just me, then, finding difficulty with this. I guess I enjoy trying to work out the whys and wherefores of someone's behaviour - the underlying thinking that governs their outward conduct. That said, I wasn't asking for a full backstory or anything - just a little interior monologue, a little insight into Moran's head - an occasional sideways glimpse at what he was really feeling and thinking.
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Old 4th Feb 2008, 9:19   #16
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Book 50: AMONGST WOMEN by John McGahern

I was probably searching for some moments when we would see Moran realising something about himself - the closest we got to that was at the close of the book when you could feel the yearning and the loss in him when he stood looking at the land. But it was the kind of book in which this character was not there to be understood; and his character never eroded or softened with time - which was surprising.
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