Eavan Boland: Books of the Year

RF Foster’s page-turning charm and humane feeling

 

Historical studies can risk a reader’s attention. But the opposite is true in RF Foster’s Vivid Faces (Allen Lane), a study of the 1916 generation. It sets up the narrative with page-turning charm, endless interest and humane feeling. In his preface Foster describes his project as “following the revolutionaries through their overlapping circles of activity”.

He puts human interest so deftly together with history that in chapter after chapter he lights up one with the other. The reader gets to be part of that extraordinary time when events brooded over Ireland. The result is a really compelling adventure in retrospect.

And a brooding spirit also figures in Theo Dorgan’s powerful new book of poems, Nine Bright Shiners (Dedalus Press). It can be found in his wonderful The Angel of History, with its uncanny portrait of historical pessimism and its last line in which the poet walks home “thoughtful, afraid for my country”.

A Woman Without a Country, by Eavan Boland, is published by Carcanet
 

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