Eilís Ní Dhuibhne was elected to Aosdána, Ireland’s official ‘assembly of artists’. She is widely respected as a versatile writer in both English and Irish. Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth is Éilís’ second novel in the Irish language; her first novel in Irish Dúnmharú sa Daingean went to a third printing, a rare event for a novel published in Irish. Máire is a successful journalist and mother of two bright and beautiful teenage children. She is happily married to Muiris, architect and nice guy. Just when everything in her life seems right and the perfect happiness she has always longed for finally within reach, things go disastrously wrong. The idyll is shattered. Máire begins to remember a childhood holiday in an Irish college which, like her life, had promised perfect happiness but delivered something very different. A dark suppressed memory is gradually excavated from the depths of her consciousness. By reclaiming the hidden secrets of her own past Maire reaches an understanding of her present. This is an entertaining lively novel which deals with serious issues: the difficulties of balancing career and family responsibilities, teenage angst, and the insecurity of the human condition. Above all, it explores the healing power of memory.
Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth
A lively novel dealing with serious issues: the work/life balance , teenage angst, insecurity and the healing power of memory.
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On the surface it appears to be a straightforward narrative about a happily married woman with a quiet, gentle husband, a rewarding career, and two lovely children. We soon learn that her daughter has grown despondent, introspective and uncommunicative, and this prompts her mother to re-examine her own youth and childhood. This brings us back to a turning-point in her life when she attended an Irish summer college at the age of 10. The narrative is split complementarily between the past and the present, illuminating both. This deceptively simple story is a pleasure to read. The writing is clear, plain, lucid and stylish. The artistry on the surface goes a long way down. Everyday emotions are invested with a charge that becomes more clear when people talk to one another. Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is equally accomplished in dealing with the worry of a mother whose child has emotionally departed and with the pain of a young girl meeting people her own age in an environment of freedom for the first time. The petty jealousies, the backbiting and the bitchiness are truly terrifying, just as the small successes are hugely uplifting. In some ways, this is the story of a generation that went to a certain kind of Irish college, and of another generation that has lots of words for the ailments of modern living but no more wisdom than before. While the story is compulsive and drives the novel along, we are being invited to think of other things as well. Even the most organised lives can be taken over by events, and irrational beasts lurk in the undergrowth of the suburban garden. Small ticks of personality can turn the world upside down. The past can be revisited, but it is never the same place. Éilís Ní Dhuibhne has shown in her Irish and English fiction that she is a readers' writer. They deserve this.
Alan Titley, Irish Times 4/10/2003