Married Quarters by Shane Connaughton this summer’s Irish Times Book Club pick

The sequel to his acclaimed 1989 debut is set in a Garda station in Cavan in late 1950s

Shane Connaughton leans against the wall outside the Garda Barracks in Redhills.

Shane Connaughton leans against the wall outside the Garda Barracks in Redhills.

 

Married Quarters by Shane Connaughton, the sequel to his acclaimed 1989 novel A Border Station, is this summer’s Irish Times Book Club selection.

Heavily autobiographical, the novel draws on the author’s early life as a Garda sergeant’s son in Redhills, Co Cavan, against the backdrop of the IRA’s abortive border campaign from 1956-1962, which turned a backwater into a front line. A serie sof interlinked stories, each chaper focuses on a different garda, whose common thread is their unsuitability for the force.

It is a sharp if forgiving portrait of an Ireland that has gone but, as Sara Baume observed in her Irish Times review, “a place unfortunately not quite so unfamiliar as it ought to be – where the Border is of ominous significance, public transport desperately scarce and Garda corruption ridiculously commonplace”.

The author will be discussing his work with Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, as part of the West Cork Literary Festival on Thursday, July 20th, at 5pm, in Bantry Library. Admission is free. The interview will be recorded for a podcast that will be uploaded next month at the end of the series, which will feature articles by the author, the book’s editor Brian Langan and fellow writer Danny Morrison.

Joseph O’Connor called Married Quarters “a welcome return by the great Shane Connaughton in a novel that shines with truth, humanity and insight on every page. An immense reading pleasure.” Christine Dwyer Hickey called it “a beautiful book, funny and insightful; a completely engaging coming of age story”. Mary O’Donnell in the Sunday Times praised “an engrossing, calmly constructed novel . . . Connaughton’s beautiful sentences draw us through a fertile story that brims with insight, narrative skill and a compelling feeling for landscape, reminding the reader that the past is never as simple as we think we remember it. . . . A flint-hard ear for dialogue . . . its characters leak the pure earthiness which church and barracks never quite repressed.”

Sara Baume in The Irish Times was more critical but wrote: “Connaughton is strong on dialogue . . . abounds with enjoyable anecdotes and flavourful details . . . an intriguing picture of Ireland in the 1950s.” Pat Kenny on Newstalk found it “ a hugely entertaining, fascinating book” while the Daily Mail admired “comic fiction at its finest . . . Connaughton brings . . . such lyricism and fondness that his writing is as radiant as it is witty – but there is shade here, too, and the degree of poignancy is brilliantly judged.” The Sunday Business Post said: “Immersing yourself is Connaughton’s Cavan is a real and rare joy, like calling forth the spirits of two late Johns, the humour and humanity of John B Keane, allied to the insight and the truth of John McGahern.”

Connaughton was born in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, in 1941 and now lives in London. His screenplay for My Left Foot was shortlisted for an Oscar; the film won two acting Oscars. His short film, The Dollar Bottom (1980) won an Academy Award for Best Short Film. A Border Station, which was reissued in paperback to coincide with the publication of Married Quarters, was shortlisted for the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award. He also adapted his novel The Run of the Country for the screen, and wrote a book about its filming, A Border Diary. He attended Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has appeared in Coronation Street, Mike Leigh’s Four Days in July and Neil Jordan’s The Miracle among other roles.

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