Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women's Fiction by Christine St. Peter

By Christine St. Peter

Up to now twenty-five years, eire has noticeable an explosion of women's fiction - thousands of released works that reimagine the inherited literary traditions and the social contexts of women's lives. altering eire examines women's use of ancient fiction, exile literature, Northern warfare narratives, speculative fiction, and vintage 'realism', and appears on the neighborhood Irish types of overseas women's genres just like the romance novel and feminist fiction.

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Supposing I said, Hanly, your father dug your mother’s grave and put her in it, so why should you think he is right in his opinion about anything? A man who ran a funeral business and a public house [as Mr Hanly does] would learn about drunkards and the dead but what would he know about women? If Hanly hates her father as she says she does she should hate his opinions too (p. 199). This passage reveals what I referred to earlier as the dual consciousness of the narrative voice. The slightly breathless and naive thought contains wisdom possible in an intelligent young woman, but the skillful, if lightly sketched, analysis about emotional/psychological bondage and freedom, destructive gender relations, suspect economic power, and its abusive potential in family life – this bespeaks the sophistication of a long life of observant political awareness.

The family, parents and siblings, combine to scold her during her visit home: ‘They made it up with me before I left but I have a sense of their having washed their hands of me a little bit as if they have lost me at last. They didn’t refer to me as the sidheog any more or even Cait or Katie but Caitlin. My full name. . It was painful leaving them’ (p. 236). But Kelly does not sentimentalize Ireland or Irish family relations. Using Cos’s friendships with the other Irish nurses as a way of depicting different kinds of Irish lives (as well as creating remarkably funny dialogue), she has Cos contrast her own freedom from fatherbondage with the situation of her friend and classmate, Hanly, who bitterly hates her father for his wife battering and sexual abuse.

This novel, which occasionally falters because of its contrived plot devices, does usefully illuminate aspects of Irish women’s writing. Jennifer Johnston was, by the time her novel was published, already an established novelist with a large international audience. 32 Jennifer Johnston’s novelist/protagonist, a Protestant Dubliner of independent wealth, is a woman in her forties dying of leukemia. Although her life has been devoted to the attempt to become a published novelist, her intense, apolitical individualism and obsession with private experience preclude any serious attempt to engage with the larger society.

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