This is so good that I despair of finding any other audio book to match it. I read the book years ago in graduate school, but the beauty didn't leap out at me then. Many people find this work difficult to read because of the Proust style - long sentences that paint tiny cameos with endless subordinate clauses and extended similes. However, when the book is read, the excellent narrator makes it lucid, and the beauty of the poetic prose shines out. Don't look too hard for narrative here; the work is about how memory resides in the body and is re-experienced through the glory of the senses. Smell, hear, touch! Oh, yes, and it's also about ruinous sexual obsession, too. Enjoy. (Now, why has no one produced an unabridged recording of the second volume?)
As others have said, this is a beautiful novel, beautifully read, and it wouldn't have been the same without the soft Irish accent. To add a few more points: If someone had said, "Here's a novel about the Irish Civil War", it wouldn't have captured the same interest. The way the conflict(s) were brought in, slowly but increasingly, was masterful. The child Roseann had no concept of "civil war", just scenes, more or less clear, of what happened to her father. We learn later how the scenes fit into the larger, tragic conflicts of church & state, but the war is never allowed to overwhelm the characters. There's no explicit, "he's on this side; he's on that side". It was a complicated stuggle, and this book sent me to find out more about it. I recommend the 1996 Liam Neeson movie, "Michael Collins", & of course, wikipedia. Another surprising discovery -- I was searching for other works by this author & found "The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty", a prequel written 10 years before "Secret Scriptures", about the minor-but-pivotal character. Can't wait to read it. (There's no recording.) This got me thinking about his namesake, Aeneas, of Trojan War fame. The parallels give one more slant on the book. AEneas, the wandering warrior, cast out of his homeland. AEneas, the passionate lover of the seductive Carthagenean Queen Dido (a.k.a. the heathen, Presbyterian beauty, Roseann). AEneas, whose mother Aphrodite pulls him away from his love & tells him he has a more glorious path to fulfill (Here Tom merges with Eneas). And BTW, are there really 3 distinct sons, or are they in essense all representatives of the same Son of Ireland, each with his own particular allegiances & fates? After all, in the letter that Jack sent Roseann, he wrote "we [brothers] all loved you". Mrs. McNulty as Aprodite? Her sons did have different fathers, and she certainly had the wrath of god! This is one way to recognize fine literature -- it has connections that go in many directions. ENJOY!
This book can be quite painful, but it is also brilliant. For decades I have been haunted by the horrific scene early in Huckleberry Finn in which Huck is locked in the cabin with his murderous father. Unredeemed evil, right? Now take that as a point of departure and spin a tale both forward and backward that tells the miserable but fascinating story of Pap's life. This novel made me recall what an excellent mystery writer Mark Twain was. There are a lot of unanswered questions in H.F., and this book plausibly elucidates many of them in utterly surprising ways. I found myself circling back to the book a few months after the first listen and listening to it a second time. I listened to Huckleberry Finn again, too. Yes, the racism is hard to take, but then racism IS hard to take, and the meanness of this character rings all too true. In recompense, the ending of the novel is a glorious irony that should add much insight to every reading of H.F. I highly recommend this to any serious reader of American literature.
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