In Time Present, and Time Past, Deirdre Madden zooms in on several members of one extended Dublin family, in alternating chapters, so the reader seesIn Time Present, and Time Past, Deirdre Madden zooms in on several members of one extended Dublin family, in alternating chapters, so the reader sees them as they are, as they were, and in certain instances, as they will become. Standard demarcations of time are mere accounting conveniences. The past is all around us, as is the future.
The novel is a meditation on time--shown especially through Fintan Buckley. He is an ordinary man, but there's always more to the ordinary person than anyone sees at first glance. A man in his middle years, he experiences "auditory hallucinations." In any other language, they'd be called daydreams, elastic moments when he temporarily drifts away and either re-visualizes or remembers events in the past--or the future. He's a man of deep emotion that he usually keeps confined and tidy in his role as father, husband, and legal advisor. Life surprises--like his wife's unexpected pregnancy in middle age--have given them Lucy, a shot of joy, a child who Fintan feels he's been the best father for and he can most unselfconsciously love.
The "big" things in Fintan's life--marriage, family, career, home--are steady, always evolving but stable and smooth like the barely perceptible movement of a fine and finely tuned engine. Maybe that's why he has more head space to lapse into imagining the spaces surrounding old photographs, first of Dublin in the early 20th century, then into more extensive territory: photos of people, photos of his family. So strong are his sensory experiences that Fintan thinks that he, "Fintan Buckley, hitherto a strong contender for the title of most unimaginative man in Ireland...might look up from his book and find himself back in the distant past."
The past may be all around, but it is neither more exotic nor more gilded than Fintan might think. Or so says Niall, Fintan's son. He's the voice of empiricism, the counterweight to Fintan's subjectivities and intuitions. Imagining that the past has a different texture is misguided and just plain inaccurate, he tells Fintan while they share a pot of tea. The past would not be Masterpiece Theater; it "would smell of horse piss and horse shit" and of "nursing someone with diarrhea in a home with no bathroom." It's a fabrication, devised by people promoting a heritage view of the past, a time "more banal than we give it credit for, but also more complicated." Fintan listens and considers his son's position, but follows his photographs further and further into the past, and finding one, a photograph of his sister, himself and a long-lost cousin from when they were summer playmates during family visits to Northern Ireland. It's his fascination with that photo that drives the rest of his plot line.
Other family members, too, have their own stories and memories, interconnecting with and around each other. None is at all like the other, but all are dependent upon each other. Ultimately, the novel is both melancholic and hopeful--registering the power and illusions of time. ...more
"No history is mute. No matter how much they own it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignoran"No history is mute. No matter how much they own it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is" ---Eduardo Galeano
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a beautiful novel about loneliness and love, fustiness and openness, racism and classism, the elder and the young. MajMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand is a beautiful novel about loneliness and love, fustiness and openness, racism and classism, the elder and the young. Major Pettigrew is a retired military officer, a widower, at times, was more concerned that his sister-in-law wouldn't get his parents' 'second-best china' than he was of experiencing the world and people around him. Mrs. Ali, a widowed shopkeeper, was chafing against the strict familial rules of how "older" widows should behave. She has a love of Kipling, as does he, and despite obstacles of prejudice, racism, and the selfishness of their family members, they're drawn together.
Some of the sentences were so evocative that I copied them down to read aloud. I found the novel thoroughly engrossing; I had great affection for both the Major and Mrs. Ali, and I marvelled at the descriptions of the English countryside and landscapes. A beautifully written novel. ...more
What is it that we think we remember? I just finished this novel yesterday; it begged to be read in one sitting (I did it in two) but I want to reread What is it that we think we remember? I just finished this novel yesterday; it begged to be read in one sitting (I did it in two) but I want to reread it again, immediately. I'm still mulling over this novel, so more to come. ...more
Giving this 4 stars defined as "I really liked it" is a bit misleading. Although I knew from the very beginning that the novel would be a difficult reGiving this 4 stars defined as "I really liked it" is a bit misleading. Although I knew from the very beginning that the novel would be a difficult read, I was still stunned by the ending. More after I've had a chance to digest it all. ...more