In praise of Deirdre Madden, by Jennifer Johnston

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘She has imagination, calm and a splendid anger’

I think that Deirdre Madden would be one of my favourite Irish woman writers. I sat thinking for quite a long while and her name kept pushing itself further and further up my list. It is quite a long time since I have read any of her books, so I got them out and looked at them, flicked over the pages of one, and then began to read. She does hit the nail on the head, there is no question about that. Without sentimentality she gives reality to her characters, and also to the tormented country in which they live. The past and the present are well plaited together. She writes well, the bricks with which she builds her structures are very well placed, always easy to read and to understand what she is writing about. She has imagination, calm and a splendid anger.

Other favourites: Julia O'Faolain and Claire Keegan

"Home was a hugh sky; it was the flat fields of poor land fringed with hawthorn and alder. It was birds in flight; it was columns of midges like smoke in a summer dusk. It was grey water, it was a mad wind; it was a solid stone house where the silence was uncanny."
This is the delightful first paragraph of Deirdre Madden's book One by One in the Darkness.

Jennifer Johnston won the Whitbread Book Award for The Old Jest in 1979, the 1973 Authors’ Club First Novel Award for The Captains and the Kings and a Lifetime Achievement from the Irish Book Awards in 2012. She was shortlisted for the 1977 Booker Prize for Shadows on our Skin.