The Ikon Maker, by Desmond Hogan
The Ikon Maker
It is 1972 in Ballinasloe, in Co Galway, and a lonely dressmaker, Susan O’Hallrahan, survives on memories of her deceased husband and her beloved son, Diarmaid, now living in England. A quiet and solitary child, Diarmaid had always expressed himself through the construction of tiny models. With his departure, these “ikons” become precious clues by which Susan tries to understand the damage wrought by his best friend’s suicide. These are dark times for Ireland – there are references to “bombs in Belfast, 13 dead in Derry” – and Susan, travelling to London to search for Diarmaid, eventually comes to blame Ireland and its past for his rejection of her: “long ago Ireland had mangled him, twisted him, embittered him.” Critically acclaimed when it was first published, in 1976, The Ikon Maker made Hogan’s name as one of the freshest new voices in Irish writing, and this sensitive treatment of emigration, suicide and loneliness is as relevant now as it was then.