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Amongst Women

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,291 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 18th 1998 by Faber (first published 1990)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Mark Archer I thought I'd missed out on that and am glad to hear I didn't. It seems like an oversight but worth thinking about why he decided not to mention it
Garry Kinnane How is that relevant to the novel? Who was Moran's mother, for that matter. Or did Moran have brothers and sisters ? Or did she ? Did she have any bro…moreHow is that relevant to the novel? Who was Moran's mother, for that matter. Or did Moran have brothers and sisters ? Or did she ? Did she have any brothers and sisters? They would be the girls' aunts, uncles. Maybe there were cousins? (You see the irrelevance of this line of enquiry; he is not writing a family saga like Tolstoy or Balzac or Galsworthy; this is a modern realist novel, and economy and essence is what McGahern's writing is about).(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Jim Fonseca
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-authors
This tale of a curmudgeonly Irish father and his effect on his five children was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1990. While reading it, at first I thought of A Man Called Ove, another curmudgeon. But Ove was not a father and he softened up over time. Michael, this father, did not. As the story went along I thought more of Stoner; even though no one would call Stoner a curmudgeon, but, I thought: this is his life, this is the way he is; this is the way things are; it is what it is; he’s not ...more
Paul Bryant
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Did you read any great novels recently about a thoroughly decent man? A guy who wasn’t violent and treated everyone with humanity and tried to look on the bright side? No, me neither. That is why Ulysses is so great. Leopold Bloom is that guy, always trying the cheer up his fellow struggler, always looking on the bright side.

This is another – another – story about a patriarch and how his family must dance around him on hot coals fearing the wrath and looking lively whenever he bestoweth his gla
...more
Hugh
This is a short, austere and powerful story of a family dominated by a proud and petty tyrant. I remember seeing some of a bleak TV adaptation many years ago, which left me doubting whether I would enjoy the book, which I read as part of The Mookse and the Gripes group's latest project to discuss a historic Booker shortlist, this time 1990, which was the year when Possession won the prize.

Moran is a widowed veteran of the Irish wars of independence who runs a small farm with his five children. T
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2012)
I thought that this was written superbly neat.

Really, this is a good polished book. A character study of an aging father (okay, like me). Then the women (thus, the title and of course with Ireland in the 60's as a setting, the man prays the rosary) around him. Michael Moran served as a guerrilla in an Ireland War of Independence and he is proud of it. Now that this glory days are gone, he is left in his old house with his second wife and his three daughters visit him occasionally. His two sons a
...more
MK
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book and the movie had many mostly small differences. Some things left out, some things added in, some things in a different order, some things between characters different in the series than they were in the book. All of which added up to different stories, almost. Almost, but not quite.

Interesting Moran's idea of 'the family'. And 'the house'. It almost seemed like 'the house' was a character in and of itself. "Don't embarass yourself, and don't embarrass the house.", one of the children i
...more
Dov Zeller
The central character of this story is central in the way a cloud is central to a storm. Michael Moran, father of five and widower remarried, draws people into familial connection through a dark and dangerous and magnetic moodiness. His daughters, and even perhaps his far away sons, have become trained to believe that this feeling of separateness and isolation that comes from being a part of a deeply dysfunctional family is actually a form of superiority. Moran's youngest son Michael has escaped ...more
JimZ
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read two books by Jon McGahern previous to this, The Barracks (1963) and in 2002, That They May Face the Rising Sun (US version of that book called ‘By The Lake’). I liked them a great deal. McGahern is a highly-respected Irish author (in its obituary the Guardian described him as 'arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett'). This book was well-written. It was somber – it was about a father and husband, Michael Moran, who was so angry about things that he took things ...more
Allan
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't come across this book until I received it as a gift from a Goodreads friend, but I found it both a poignant and powerful read.

Set in rural Ireland over a lengthy period in the mid 20th century, it tells the story of the family of Moran, a man who fought in the War of Independence as the head of a flying column, but was left behind by the bureaucrats once the struggle was won, and who now farms in the west of Ireland.

From the earliest point in the narrative, we see that Moran's relations
...more
Kathrina
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
A short book, but claustrophobic in its persistent domestic dysfunction, its unrelentingly dissatisfied central character, its unsympathetic disdain for chapter breaks. Irish Catholic patriarchs are a breed apart, but a specific breed nonetheless -- my childhood best friend's father was the living manifestation of Moran, at sea in a household of mostly women, who turned to him for direction and a sense of purpose, needing him to feel necessary and connected while at the same time resenting it. M ...more
Dem
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Amongst Women by John McGahern is an excellent look at a family’s life in rural Ireland in the 1960s. McGahern writes a quiet sort of novel and yet he address a number of important themes.

Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerrilla leader in the War of Independence. Now in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting but this time with his family, his friends and even himself.

I find John McGahern’s sense of time and place exce
...more
Matt
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Really top notch. I only say underrated (McGahern has won several noteworthy prizes) just because I hadn't heard of him and didn't think he'd gotten the recognition he deserves this side of the pond.

The writing is beautiful- humane, poised, distant, appraising, tender, complexly simple, Chekovian, minutely realized, lucid, almost translucent in its knowingness, and the characters are drawn as near to life as you can get. They have inwardness- McGahern shows, he doesn't tell, and you see them as
...more
Anuradha
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm really busy, you guys! I'll review both this and Blindness by tomorrow, or latest by the day after, I promise!
Kathleen
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
"He stood in a cloud of moral injury.”

This is a very well-crafted character study of a 1950’s(ish) father in the Republic of Ireland. A former guerilla fighter in the Irish War of Independence, Michael Moran is unhappy with the outcome of his war. He is disappointed with his country, his family, his neighbors, and pretty much everything.

I’ll get something petty out of the way first: I didn’t like that there were no chapter divisions. This really bugs me. I like breathing space. I like to pause
...more
Mary
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2016, ireland
Don't let them pull wool over your eyes. The war was the cold, the wet, standing to your neck in a drain for a whole night with bloodhounds on your trail, not knowing how you could manage the next step towards the end of a long march. That was the war: not when the band played and a bloody politician stepped forward to put flowers on the ground. (p.5)

It was like grasping water to think how quickly the years had passed here. They were nearly gone. It was in the nature of things and yet it brough
...more
Marie
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All
Powerful Irish novel on family and country. Couldn't put it down.
Vit Babenco
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Many of them who had pensions and medals and jobs later couldn’t tell one end of a gun from the other. Many of the men who had actually fought got nothing. An early grave or the emigrant ship. Sometimes I get sick when I see what I fought for.”
So it goes, some men provide the victory and the others use the fruits of the victory…
The embittered father of the family is a despot and he tries to rule his children with the iron fist, he wants his sons to follow in his footsteps but they run away from
...more
Trin
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, irish-lit
My Irish Literature tutor at Trinity College (a.k.a., Hot Scottish Tutor Peter Mackay, who hopefully is not reading this) said that this book would have made a better short story than it does a novel. While I enjoyed McGahern's simple, unflashy prose, I'm inclined to agree. The story covers the same ground again and again, and while the monotony of Moran's life may be part of the point, it doesn't make for the most enjoyable read.
Cphe
Difficult book in some ways to rate. On one hand the father of this bleak and claustrophobic Irish novel was a hypocrite. You're supposed to want what's best for your children, to hope that they'll be happy and content, that their needs both emotional and physical are met. Didn't appreciate the pivotal character of Michael Moran, he was too damaged to be able to meet any needs but his own. One aspect of Moran that I could readily empathise with was his love of the land.

This is more of a characte
...more
James Barker
This is a wonderfully written account of a family that lives a brittle, tense existence due to a father who feels marginalised, bitter, an outsider. The way his unpredictable moodiness (which seems almost bi-polar) infects the house, stressing the women (his wife, daughters) and breaking his relationships with his sons, treads the same ground that John McGahern's The Dark did with such aplomb- in fact I think The Dark is a better book, although there is very little in it.

I particularly liked the
...more
Roger Pettit
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ireland has produced many fine novelists - William Trevor, Brian Moore, Colm Toibin, John Banville, Jennifer Johnston, Maeve Binchy and John Boyne, to name just some. And here is another (hitherto unknown to me) to add to the list: John McGahern. McGahern died in 2006, having produced 6 novels and 4 short story collections. On the evidence of this gem of a book, it is a great shame that he did not write more.

Amongst Women is an excellent novel. It is a sort of Tennessee Williams play, transport
...more
Jonathan Pool
I read this as part of The Mookse and the Gripes visit to the Booker shortlist from 1990.
Amongst Women is a carefully drawn study of local community and an insular family (the Morans).
There's lots to applaud, and my only reservation is that I don't feel that McGovern brings any deeper or original insight to the realities and dynamics of close knit family life than the great D.H. Lawrence did in many of his classic works some seventy years before.

There are some memorable descriptions of Michael M
...more
Eric
Aug 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Many significant Irish novels published during the 80s and 90s (I think, in particular, of Colm Toibin's wonderful The Heather Blazing) seem to feature characters and plots that struggle to reconcile the revolutionary ideals of the early twentieth century with the soullessness and disenchantments of some aspects of the new state that finally came into being. McGahern's memorable patriarch and former IRA man, Moran, is emblematic of such characters. Although rarely likable, Moran is nevertheless ...more
Dylan
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A narratively straightforward story about family and understanding guided by emotion.

Boring? I don't think so. What I like about this book is that I'm able to think back to moments within and fail to see any relevancy toward a specific arched plot. It is much like one would look back on their own life and just see events for what they were: experiences that just happened and solidified who you were, are, and will be into the future. The tragedy, if there is one, is that life moves on and the si
...more
Ryan
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't give a stuff what the judges said: THIS was the novel that should have won the 1990 Booker. At less than 200 pages its simple-seeming prose and compressed wisdom make it the crowning achievement of McGahern's distinguished career. I divide people into those who have read it and those who should.
Nicole
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ownbooks2017
The claustrophobia and screwed up family dynamics of this are seriously hard to take, but in a good way. Wanted to grab the aforementioned women, shake them hard, and scream RUN AWAY!!!
Laura
From BBC Radio 4:
Michael Moran’s life was forever transformed by his days of glory in the War of Independence. Now, a farmer in the Irish countryside, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past. However, as he grows older, his wife and daughters must confront how their own lives have been irrevocably shaped by this complicated and contradictory man.

2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of ‘Amongst Wome
...more
Nancy Mills
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
Beautifully written book in which a whole generation goes by and almost nothing happens.
Kusaimamekirai
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-ireland
I came to this book from Yiyun Li's amazing memoir, "Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life". She was quite taken with McGahern's prose and reading this for myself, I can certainly see why.
This is the story of Michael Moran, a former Republican army partisan long since removed to his outpost at home with his new bride, son, and 3 daughters.
To say things Moran is a difficult character is an understatement. He is a bitter, petty, tyrant who rules his house with an iron fist. So m
...more
Stijn
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was a gift from an Irish friend some years ago. I only picked it up two weeks ago and started reading it: I shouldn't have waited that long, this is a great book.

It's not an 'easy' story though: a former Irish war hero, Moran, lives in the Irish countryside with his four teenage children (one boy and three girls, the oldest son Luke moved away to London after a personal conflict with his father) and Rose, his second wife. We follow the life of the family: how Moran lives alone with the
...more
John
May 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Dennis Okada
Shelves: bookcrossing
The book is well written but a little boring. Not too much happens and what does happen is fairly repetitive. Probably close to real life. At times Moran was hard to like. He was definitely head of the house. to the point where his children all left home as soon as possible. To his credit they did keep coming back.

The blurb on the back of the book about being a guerrilla leader and coming to terms with the past is a bit of a red herring. It is barely mentioned. I hate it when the synopsis on the
...more
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Reading 1001: Amongst Women by John McGahern 3 18 Sep 14, 2018 12:05PM  
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The Mookse and th...: 1990 Shortlist: Amongst Women 6 28 Jul 08, 2017 03:10AM  
All About Books: Week 97 - Amongst Women by John McGahern 10 21 Jul 28, 2015 03:58AM  
Something Old, So...: April 2014 - Amongst Women by John McGahern 3 3 Apr 18, 2014 04:46PM  

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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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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
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“For the girls the regular comings and goings restored their superior sense of self, a superiority they had received intact from Moran and which was little acknowledged by the wide world in which they had to work and live. That unexplained notion of superiority was often badly shaken and in need of restoration by the time they came home.” 4 likes
“As looking down from great heights brings the urge to fall and end the terror of falling, so his very watching put pressure on them to make a slip as they dried and stacked the plates and cups.” 4 likes
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