Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “That They May Face The Rising Sun” as Want to Read:
That They May Face The Rising Sun
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

That They May Face The Rising Sun

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,458 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 26th 2002 by Faber and Faber (first published December 15th 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about That They May Face The Rising Sun, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about That They May Face The Rising Sun

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 22, 2012 Dem rated it really liked it
John McGahern's Novel "That they may face the rising sun" is the first Novel I have ever read where very little happens and yet everything that does happen is magnified by McGaheran’s’ amazing art of storytelling and the vivid images he creates of Irish rural life.

Joe and Kate Rutledge have come to Ireland from London in search of a different life. In passages of beauty and truth the drama of a year in their lives and those of the memorable characters that move around them unfolds through the ac
This is a gently flowing novel about the inhabitants of a small town in Ireland. It's a departure from my usual reading in that this novel certainly couldn't be described as either plot or action driven.

There is however a wonderful sense of community, time and place. It's where neighbour looks out for neighbour. It's a community where everyone knows everyone's business and if they don't know it then they find out. There are a cast of characters all with their faults and foibles.

It's not an easy
Sep 01, 2009 Pierce rated it it was amazing
So this was, in effect, McGahern's swan song, and perhaps it was the wrong novel to start with. His earlier, darker, sometimes-banned stuff gave him his name, but this is not angry or black. There's a kind of complexly layered but mostly tender account of rural Ireland given. Mam said it's the work of a dying man coming to terms with his life and country (he had cancer) and that makes a lot of sense.

Very accessible and written in clear, simple, descriptive prose. It tells the story of an Irish
Nov 11, 2008 Siria rated it really liked it
I think it's best to think of That They May Face the Rising Sun less as a novel without a plot and more as a fictionalised anthropological study of rural Ireland. It's a lucid, serene rendering of the kind of place where I grew up: one governed by the rhythms of the landscape and circumscribed by social ritual and interdependence, by the striving towards modernity clashing with the old, old ways of things. McGahern's prose style is superb, sentences turning on the most precise and illuminating o ...more
Nov 11, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any Irish person!
Shelves: irish
Loved it! Loved it! Thanks Ellen for the recommendation. This book seems to have a simple plot until you think about the emotionally charged encounters of the characters involved. A small community lives around a lake and their everyday comings and goings are chronicled by the author. The pace is slow. The members of the community are aware of the larger politics and larger world but they only serve as something to discuss. They really don't impinge on the closeknit relationships of these people ...more
I really wish I could enjoy this book, but it's driving me crazy. The slow pace, the stupid characters (by which I don't mean that the characters are badly done but that stupidity is part of their nature), the constant use of the passive voice, the sort of skaz (I don't know if I'm using this term correctly) in the narrative... it all combines to make an extremely annoying book.

I see exactly what McGahern's doing (or I think I see it) and kudos to him, because it's brilliant. It is a continuous
That They May Face the Rising Sun. This was a most delightful read. Not a story with a plot but a story of life, seasons passing, the years cycle frames their lives. The book is set in rural part of Ireland and is a portrait of a life in a rural lakeside community. It's the author's own place, sparsely populated corner of County Leitrim. Nothing much really happens yet it is full; haymaking, lambing, Monaghan Day, a wake. The story has repeating episodes of food, drink, the grey heron, swans, bl ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Malachi rated it it was amazing
This is McGahern's masterpiece, a major leap beyond the other novels into a wider frame. The characterisation of people like John Quinn and Jamesie and The Shah and others is beyond brilliant, though curiously the two people through whose perspective the story is mediated, The Ruttledges, are more pallidly drawn. A recurrent question is how well one might know a community without having been born into it. And an unstated question is how well the Ruttledges have understood the people they have be ...more
Apr 24, 2016 Pip rated it really liked it
What a wonderful writer is John McGahern. He launches the reader right into the lives of Irish villagers with his careful descriptions of social intercourse: "'Patrick. You're shining', Jamesie held out his great hand .'The two of yous are a sight for sore eyes" he said with perfect poise in the middle of the jostling and pushing in the crush around the ring. 'If you didn't leave your manners behind today you'd be walked all over'".
"'Lots of money. Because I'm a topper,' he argued.'That's what
Stephen Durrant
A professor in our English Department recommended McGahern as "Ireland's finest contemporary writer." Then last night a visitor from Ireland to our university, flabbergasted that I was reading McGahern, said that this was completely unlike his other novels, which are "much darker and more strongly plotted." "By the Lake" is a character study and a tribute to the beauty of a lake in the Irish countryside. It has a dolorous tone but is not dark, at least compared to so many other things I've read ...more
Edel Henry
Feb 17, 2015 Edel Henry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 4.5 star read for sure. I loved this book.

The characters were so warm and likeable - I definitely laughed out loud at Jamesie's one liners on more than one occasion. McGahern's portrayal of rural Ireland is stunning with small events such as the death of a black sheep taking on profound meaning.

One of McGahern's strengths is his ability to lure the reader into a false sense of calm with his pastoral reflections and disarm them moments later with the darkness that lurks underneath. The tale of
May 03, 2013 Arukiyomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
Now I know what many are going to say on finishing this: ‘what the heck was that about? Where was the story? What was the point?’ And I have to say that had the 1001 books list not pushed me deeper into fiction than I’ve been comfortable going, I would have said the same thing earlier in my reading career.

Now, however, I can appreciate literature that doesn’t need a point, a plot or a polished ending. I can just appreciate it for what it is – literature pure and simple; writing for the joy of be
Feb 27, 2013 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sample of the beautiful writing style.

"They could not live with him and they could not be seen--in their own eyes or in the eyes of others--to refuse him shelter or turn him away. The timid, gentle manners, based on a fragile interdependence, dealt in avoidances and obfuscatons. Edges were softened, ways found round harsh realities. What was unspoken was often far more important than the words that were said. Confrontation was avoided whenever possible. These manners, open to exploitation by r
Ian Mapp
Jun 10, 2012 Ian Mapp rated it did not like it
This book is in my book of 1001 books that I should read before I die. Thats the reason I chose it and the reason why I chose to abandon it after only 100 pages. It just wasnt for me.

There is no plot, nothing happens, the characters are all interchangeable and in the few pages I read I neither learned anything about them, what motivated them and where they were going to go.

There are no natural breaks in the book and the relentless prose just goes on and one until the point where I just couldnt t
Frances Sawaya
Nov 15, 2013 Frances Sawaya rated it it was ok
Shelves: in-our-library
Soon after this book was published I was eager to have a read because of the similarity between the couple in the story and our own "Irish" life: in 1998 we too moved here to lead a simpler life. I really could not get into much of the book, however, and was quite disappointed. Some clever phrasing, some characters very similar to those all around us; some glimpses of life that drive me crazy and some that I admire. Par for the course, I guess. There is something interesting to note, however. We ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-list-books
Isn't Ireland wonderful? Just the very fact that it exists and old men get drunk there makes for endless tales of rural joy and occasional moments of pain that are so intrinsically wonderful to tell in great detail that there is absolutely no need for anything to happen. At all. Kate and Ruttledge move back to Ireland from their nasty awful non Irish lives in London and then they grow a few plants and buy and sell a few sheep and that's pretty much it. But there's a guy called Jamesie who occasi ...more
Martin Fitzgerald
I've read this twice now, and both times been saddened to finish. Different from McGahern's other novels, every word of this is rich, not a word used lightly. This novel is a tribute to simplicity, the everyday, honoring those who pass through life without fanfare or outward greatness.

He shows the strength of friendship and community, and the ties that ritual bind. In portraying the normal, McGahern quietly wraps a cloak of acceptance around the reader of our unspectacular place in life, and it
Mary Lou
Oct 03, 2011 Mary Lou rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish, favourites
This is a chronicle of a year in the life of a rural community in Ireland. Sound s ordinary enough but no- it is an extraorinary book.The lives of the characters are rolled out for us with such insight and compassion, against a beautiful backdrop. You feel you are there with them and indeed want to be there in this idyllic world. If ever a review did not do a book justice this is it.This is a must read.
Kerrie O'Neill
Jun 02, 2014 Kerrie O'Neill rated it it was amazing
Probably one of the best books I have ever read. A small simple story but so well told. His discriptions of nature are so simple but so real. They are the people we know. If you are from the country I think you will really 'get' this book. Melencholly but beautiful.
Aug 26, 2011 Irene rated it really liked it
Lovely book, thanks Patti for suggesting it...
Pat Mullan
Aug 08, 2014 Pat Mullan rated it it was amazing
One of the most heartful, absorbing and most beautifully written books I've read. McGahern was a true rock star. Titled "By the Lake" in its US edition. All praises due.
Feb 08, 2010 Mindi rated it liked it
Shelves: bacon-strips-bc
Book club book #3.

I kept asking, "And...?" until I reached the end. John McGahern may be the Irish version of John Steinbeck.
Oct 13, 2016 Colm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I admired this book. I can't say that I was enthralled by it, but I'm really struggling to accept how impressed by it I am despite that.

The book is set in rural Ireland, Longford as it happens but it could just as easily be in most other counties without a major metropolitan centre within striking distance. Exact setting is unimportant, not because McGahern is uninterested by the surroundings that he so delicately describes but, simply because any Irish person could read this novel and think of
Кремена Михайлова
Класическо писане (Джон Макгахърн).
Адекватен превод (Аглика Маркова)!
Ирландия – позната; скучно-интересна, изолирана, автентична.
Няма злодеи, няма светци. Няма големи драми. Само „обикновени“.

„- Ако някой побеждава, някой друг, естествено, губи - каза Кейт.
- А ние? Ние какво правим? – попита Мери.
- Кютим си кротичко, докато времето минава – изсмя се Рътлидж.“

Мисля, че романът „Сред жени“ ми беше харесал мааалко повече – дали заради по-горчивите житейски препятствия? Иска ни се да четем/гледаме
Mar 19, 2017 Glen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a charming and gentle novel, full of subtleties but, ultimately, a slice of life narrative about late 20th Century life in the Irish countryside. The cast of characters is numerous and often colorful, but the anchor and center of the novel are the Ruttledges, moved from London in a kind of reverse-migration, their fortune contrasted starkly with Johnny, the brother of one of the book's more endearing figures, Jamesie. The book is slowly paced and without much in the way of dramatic actio ...more
Adair Maller
Nov 19, 2016 Adair Maller rated it it was ok
Annoying prose. No plot and no point to the book.
Jul 04, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
hat They May Face the Rising Sun
By: John McGahern

"All through the evening the pendulum clocks struck. There were seven or eight in the house, most of them on the walls of the upper room. The clocks struck the hours and half-hours irregularly, one or other of them chiming every few minutes.

Are any of those clocks telling the right time? Ruttledge asked, looking up, when he felt it was time to leave.

What hurry's on you? Jamesie countered quickly. Isn't the evening long? It's ages since ye were
Paula Scollan
Feb 27, 2017 Paula Scollan rated it really liked it
A lovely writer. A lovely book.
U. Cronin
Apr 09, 2015 U. Cronin rated it it was amazing
Masterful. One of those books you are sad to finish. McGahern gently draws you into the world of late 1980s rural Co. Leitrim, Ireland, and after a dozen pages it's like you're a blow-in who has come to live in the area, and the author is your guide, gradually helping you find out who all the neighbours are around the lake , what's the story with them, the gossip, their seed, breed and generation. There isn't a conventional plot per se, just little stories and incidents about the characters and ...more
Geoff Wooldridge
Apr 12, 2016 Geoff Wooldridge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a charmingly simple but effective and intelligent book that showcases McGahern's obvious talents as a writer. Published in 2002, it is his last novel before his death in 2006.

There's not much plot here; the novel covers a period a year in the lives of Joe and Kate Ruttledge, who have returned to Ireland after spending time pursuing careers in London. They settle in a small rural village and take up farming on a modest scale.

The story is just full of wonderful characters. The Ruttledge's
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • In the Forest
  • Adjunct: An Undigest
  • London Orbital
  • Thursbitch
  • Islands
  • Schooling
  • Shroud
  • Small Remedies
  • Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • Gabriel's Gift
  • The Lambs of London
  • The Heart of Redness
  • An Obedient Father
  • The Story of Lucy Gault
  • The Light of Day
  • Vanishing Point
  • The Red Queen
McGahern began his career as a schoolteacher at Scoil Eoin Báiste (Belgrove) primary school in Clontarf, Ireland, where, for a period, he taught the eminent academic Declan Kiberd before turning to writing full-time. McGahern's second novel 'The Dark' was banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied clerical sexual abuse. In the controversy over this he was forced to resign h ...more
More about John McGahern...

Share This Book

“...with a rush of feeling he felt that this must be happiness. As soon as the thought came to him, he fought it back, blaming the whiskey. The very idea was as dangerous as presumptive speech: happiness could not be sought or worried into being, or even fully grasped; it should be allowed its own slow pace so that it passes unnoticed, if it ever comes at all.” 2 likes
“His abhorrence and fear of alcohol did not extend to his power as host. He kept a huge cupboard of drinks in the station house and loved to serve large measures to visiting relatives--especially those he disliked--about which there was a definite element of spreading bait for garden snails.” 2 likes
More quotes…