June 2015

Noted
by Helen Elliott

‘The Green Road’ by Anne Enright
Jonathan Cape; $32.99

At Ardeevin, County Clare, the four young Madigan children are living their ordinary Irish lives on the plane between slowness and still-time that is Ireland in 1980. Hanna, the youngest, walks around looking, absorbing, wondering, but rarely speaking; Constance, the eldest, does what she is told, blanketing her fury in practicalities; Emmet, the youngest boy, is concise and detached about everything; and Dan, at 16, has just announced that he is going in for the priesthood. Dan is their mother Rosaleen’s favourite, and at his announcement she takes to her bed. The “horizontal solution”, Dan calls it.

Pretty, charming, spoilt Rosaleen Considine had married beneath her when she paired up with handsome Pat Madigan for love. Or was it sex? In their youth and beauty they “went to bed for days”. Still, the price was high; her family never forgave her, then children came, and she wasn’t quite as central to her husband as she had been to her adored father. Her children, accustomed to her theatricality, take an exasperated pleasure in the dark comedy of her life as it spills across theirs. Hanna is destined to become an actress and as early as 12 has learnt that “there was very little of herself that their mother held back. Her children were not what you might call ‘spared’.”

Part Two opens in 2005, with the children returning for one last Christmas at Ardeevin. Now in her 70s, Rosaleen nevertheless remains the spoilt 17-year-old. Poorly educated, unformed, a woman for whom formalities serve as ethics, Rosaleen cannot change. Love, though, has little to do with justness and everything to do with blood. It is this slipshod thing that goes by the name of “love” in families that is documented through the diverse lives of the Madigans.

Enright, a Booker Prize winner for The Gathering in 2007, has that singular cadence that is the gift of Irish writers. She prefers story – “telling it into someone’s ear”, she calls it – to plot “mechanics”, and this story, told in precise, controlled language, ripples across a constantly shifting landscape in which the characters bloom and fade. Emmet is a man keen to save the world but incapable of saving himself. Dan struggles all his life for some internal peace. All of the siblings have plans to leave Ireland – some manage the leaving, others do not. And none of the four ever quite leaves the terrible, beloved Rosaleen.

Helen Elliott
Helen Elliott is a literary journalist and writer.

June 2015

In This Issue

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Best laid plans

The 2015 budget has come and gone, but where is Joe Hockey's National Conversation?

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Raised voices

Punk and gospel influences combine to make the personal political on Algiers’ self-titled debut

Disunited kingdom

A win for David Cameron and the Conservatives in the UK was inevitable

Psychoceramics

Australian universities need US-style funding, not US-style fees


Read on

Feeding the Muppets

What does the Morrison government have to offer in terms of serious policy?

Paul Feig’s sophisticated ‘A Simple Favour’

This camp study of sociopathy is far from simple

Image of Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Joseph Roulin’

‘MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art’

An eye candy-laden, educational treasure hunt of an exhibition

Image of Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton

Turnbull fires back

Unlike Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull never promised ‘no wrecking’


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