Midlands bleakness explored in new Irish novel
Dublin, 18 May 1918 - Brinsley MacNamara’s debut novel, The Valley of the Squinting Windows, is noteworthy for eschewing sentimentality.
The novel is set in a fictitious midlands town, Garradrimna, where everyone is concerned with everyone else’s business. The novel’s lack of sympathy with its surrounds is striking; it is very much rooted in contemporary realism.
There is, as the reviewer from the Freeman’s Journal has observed, none of the ‘poetry’ of nature that is to be found in the work of Francis Ledwidge, nor is there ‘any hint of that sympathy which Padraic Colum brought to his descriptions of the same country’.
MacNamara is more interested in the ‘degrading existence of the seven pubs which absorb the villagers and he revels in the malicious gossip of drunken men and backbiting women. The story is largely developed by the ‘gossips and feuds’ of Garradrimna and it is the ‘parties to these orgies of slander and hate who are the protagonists’.
Despite such bleakness, MacNamara is credited with displaying a ‘real gift of story-telling’.
[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]