I was just an accident. There was no reason for me.Yet my life burned inside me.
What is it about Irish writers – particularly Irish women writers – this visceral ability to inhabit the lyrical place? There is such a strong sense of sensuality, vitality, depth of emotion, whether in writing about sex linked with sin – increasing the charge, or about writing itself, conversation, food. The ability to be at the same time intellectual – but not cerebral. The mind inhabits the body, the world of the senses is engaged in.
O’ Faolain has written a gorgeous book, passionate, sorrowful, electric, charting her own personal development and the development of Irish women, Irish intellectual women, colliding with the rise of feminism. Whether it’s the little vignettes about her first exposure to un-Irish food in Italy: `as I was to do for a long time, I ate just vegetable soup, because at least it had potatoes in it’ or accounts of the passionate schoolgirl world of crushes `the innocent sublimation of sexuality’, she brings her reader into a present, charged, felt sense of truth.
The rhythms of her writing are somehow, definably Irish, arising from mists, vivid, green, loamy, wild and plaintive both.
I’m not at all surprised that on initial publication of this book so many people contacted her to say ‘you told my story’ – no, not the personal story of encounters with the literati, but the understory of family bonds and tragedies, of the disappointments between women and men, between parents and children, of invisible women and visible addiction
Postscript. I was saddened to discover, on searching for a photo for this blog, that she has very recently died. Her voice was immediate, vibrant, lyrical