Home from England, by James Ryan (Phoenix, £9.99 in UK)

 

This first novel, which has been highly praised in hardback; is essentially about emigration, not only the pain of emigrating but the anti-climax of return to the Old Place and the Old Faces. The father-and-son relationship that is crucial to so many modern Irish novels is woven tightly into the texture of the story, which in general is low-keyed but sensitive, and sure in its psychology. It is told with a close knowledge of rural Ireland in all its curiously hybrid character - for instance, girls in Irish costume dancing to rock-and-roll. The death of the narrator's father is the climacteric of the book, with which the umbilical link with the past is broken, and what follows is a kind of epilogue to the old life and possibly the prelude to a new one.