I'm just about winding up reading "By the Lake" a novel by John McGahern. Like some other readers of this book I am putting off reading the last few pages as I just want to savour, more slowly, the language. The unspoken words lying underneath.
Like this - from the loss of a tiny newborn lamb on the small holding of the main protagonist and his wife, Ruttledge and Kate:
P283 "It was as if the black lamb reached back to other feelings of love and disappointment and gathered them into an ache that was out of all proportion to the small loss."
P234".....ran the sense, like an underground river, that there would come a time where these days would be looked back on as happiness, all that life could give of contentment and peace."
P141 "But how can time be gathered in and kissed? There is only flesh."
As I read his scrumptiously detailed writing about the ordinary local doings and the comings and goings of characters and seasonal changes, I find memories resurface, my words more fine tuned as I explore some poetry I'm writing, richer ideas for stories. For there are no plotlines to many of his works, it's all in his observations, of the lake, of candlelight, of sun and shadow and rain and most of all the complexity beneath the surface of his characters.
This book was John McGahern's swan song. He was dying of cancer at the time he wrote it. His other books and short stories are dark, with threads of anger and hopelessness until the characters escape from the savagery of rural Ireland, unsuccessful in the hiding of their scars.