That They May Face The Rising Sun
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That They May Face The Rising Sun

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  968 ratings  ·  107 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...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 26th 2002 by Faber and Faber (first published December 15th 2001)
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Dem
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...more
C.
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...more
Siria
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
Pierce
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...more
Elizabeth
Dec 16, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Pat
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...more
Stephen
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
Ian Mapp
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...more
Frances Sawaya
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
Mindi
Book club book #3.

I kept asking, "And...?" until I reached the end. John McGahern may be the Irish version of John Steinbeck.
Irene
Lovely book, thanks Patti for suggesting it...
Chris Russell
hat They May Face the Rising Sun
By: John McGahern
2002

"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...more
bookczuk
Jan 04, 2014 bookczuk marked it as put-aside-for-another-day
I have to admit that I am having great difficulty with this book. It's not that is is poorly written, because the language is eloquent. It's not the pace (which is extremely gentle) bothers me either, because I love how "slow" novels enfold the reader and carry them into the world depicted. The cast of characters are indeed, characters. Some of the language throws me, as Irish English differs in many ways from American English. (Just check out all the memes on the internet that explore language...more
Malachi
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
Adrian
This book is a deceptive book, it is quiet and understated but almost heartbreaking in its depiction of the beauty of ordinary life. The book concerns the lives and thoughts of a group of people who live around a lake in the rural West of Ireland.
The book moves slowly, building the lives of the characters through small details and moments of conversation. The aim of the novel, to me, is to talk about what constitutes happiness and a well lived life. Since the vast majority of us will never be...more
Arukiyomi
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...more
Frank
I really loved this book. Nothing happened—nothing much, that is. It's the story of a couple—Kate and Joe Ruttledge—who moved back to rural Ireland after successful careers in the advertising game, buy a small farm of land in the lake country of County Leitrim, and observe the simple events of the rolling year. From lambing to planting to gathering hay and selling the yearling calves, to the hightened expectations of the Christmas season. I could almost smell the turf fires and the pungent sweet...more
Shelley
I wanted to give this book more than three stars. I really did. But I just could not. I know, I know, it is a great work or literature and a profound book.....and bored me to death. Imagine you are a child in a room with adults who are talking. And talking. And talking. That is it. It is like a long narrative amongst the people who live around the lake. It was beautifully written and it was touching and at certain times, interesting. But it was just so tedious to me. Friends would drop by the ho...more
Nicholas
A shining example of character development and country life on the Green Isles. The story reads more like a memoir than an actual novel, but it is engrossing all the same. The dominating figures are the Ruttledges who live near a lake teeming with wildlife. Through storms, sheep-losing, and death, life is an endless flow and ebb on the grassy hills around the lake. With neighbors Patrick Ryan, Jamesie and Mary, the Ruttledges go to town and live on their farm frequently visiting and gossiping. A...more
Vivian Valvano
This seems more gentle than his other books, and the setting descriptions are typically beautiful. But under the surface, there is plenty that is not really so gentle by this Irish lake. For all the people that make the best of quiet, somewhat contented lives, there are subtle revelations, sometimes just innuendoes, from McGahern of some who have suffered grave disappointments, suffer great loneliness. And in true McGahern fashion, there is one character who has been grievously, shamefully hurt...more
Kerrie O'Neill
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.
Lynn Dolven
A nice change of pace to read an Irish novel that spends as much time describing the landscape as dialogue among the characters! There isn't much of a storyline - just the country life of the characters who are all middle aged and middle class and drink whiskey for breakfast often. The dialgoue contained lots of proverbs - little life lessons which make the reader pause and ponder. This book isn't a page turner, but it is really relaxing to read because it isn't going anywhere fast - it's just a...more
Sharon Zink
This was a very peaceful book full of exquisite characterization. At first I thought that's all it was, but there is a plot to it as well. It is the story of old neighbors who live around a lake in Ireland.
Raymond Deane
I'm not a fan of McGahern, but I suppose I enjoyed (wrong word, really) this one more than the earlier novels I'd read (The Dark, The Barracks, The Pornographer). There are fewer trite observations about mortality and the likes strewn about. All in all, however, an overrated book - although I accept that most people disagree.
Pat Mullan
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.
Garrett Tezanos
A slice of life in rural Ireland in what I think is the 1980s. There is not much plot to speak of. An inferior writer could not have pulled it off. McGahern writes in a simple, straightforward style and strikes a nice balance between humor and pathos. Some characters seem underdeveloped, but I think the information is there, buried in the mundane details of day-to-day life. Still, there were times when my mind started to wander and I debated not finishing it. This is not a critique of the book p...more
Becky
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
Ashley
I started this book three times before I actually got through it. I think the only reason that I read it now (and enjoyed it) is because it's such a stark contrast to my own reality. I'm too busy and too much is happening. This book is slow, away from the hustle and bustle, there's not much plot, and normally, I might not enjoy this. But the characters are so wonderfully developed, and the lack of the usual plot twists meant that I didn't feel rushed to keep reading and see how it ended. If you'...more
Jana
This book is praised so much, but I was in a complete oblivion. I looove the title and cover, but I was 100% unattached with the plot and characters. Actually don't know what was happening in this story. I felt weird during the reading. I turned pages and I was again on the beginning. Had total lack of any understanding and I can't really tell how old these people are. And yes, there were too many of them, and all of them starting with John...and then versions of this name. It has a day to day p...more
AnneMarie
The thing that struck me the most about the book was the pace. It's a slow pace yes but now with a steady and comforting rhythm, which is reflected in the dialogue as well.

The story essentially comprises of two parts; McGahern describes nature, then he describes people, then nature and so forth. The characters were simultaneously endearing and repulsive and definitely all too familiar.

On the other hand I admit I skimmed over some of the descriptions of nature and it felt just a little bit too...more
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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
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“...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.” 1 likes
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