In My Father’s House, as the Hanright siblings gather in the old farmhouse to clear their collected memories, they enter a room referred to as Narnia. In our house, one of the ones in which my daughter
Since the publication of the novel earlier this year, I have been unable to put into words what I feel about this birthing – a kind of grandchild. Not mine in any sense and yet the result of something born in me – a child with a talent. I am amazed and delighted.
The members of the Hanright family come alive in all their raw ordinariness. Nothing spectacular happens and yet we recognise every character trait and flaw. When I listen to obituaries on the radio, or when someone’s death makes the news, it always strikes me that no one bad ever dies: ‘everyone loved them’, ‘they were the life and soul’, ‘so kind and popular’, ‘always a smile on their face’, ‘would do anything for anyone’. We believe that we ought not to speak ill of the dead, but the deathbed scene in this novel is refreshing in its harsh reality. Sometimes death doesn’t fix things.
The language flows with musical excellence, lilting with familiar Ulsterisms: 'give the kitchen a going over'; 'I've never heard the like of this'; 'dusk snuck in and settled in the corners'. I love the eyes that 'committed to being blue after years of watery indecision' and the cowslips 'openly flirting in yellow skirts'.
Most powerful of all is this novel’s sense of place. The farm and its environs are drawn in such detail that we can smell the mud and mould and taste the staleness of the air and the relationships which came to grief in the house. Up the road, the city waits, ‘
Robbie mentions the phenomenon of the second novel falling short of the first. We await the next offering in the firm belief that no such thing will be true of this gifted author.