I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Lean In And Listen

Lean In And Listen

Anne Tannam
Now We Can Talk Openly About Men, by Martina Evans, Carcanet, 88 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1784105785 Now We Can Talk Openly About Men is divided into two dramatic monologues featuring the voices of two very different Irish women living in the 1920s, recalling the passion, vertigo and terror of the War of Independence and the Civil War. From the first page it demands we pull up a chair and listen to every word these two women say. Drop the notion of fictional characters, drop the notion of a reader and drop the notion of objective history. Get comfortable because you won’t be getting up again until these two women have their say. Lean in, in case you miss a word. Although there are only two narrative voices the stories are peopled with a range of fascinating characters that flesh out the personal dramas as they unfold. Mrs Katie Donovan and Miss Babe Cronin never meet but the character of Eileen Murphy, Mrs Donovan’s adopted niece, member of Cumann na mBan, plays a pivotal role in bridging their personal stories while her own dramatic and tragic story, as told by the two women, spans both the War of Independence and the Civil War. The collection opens in 1919 in Cork with Mrs Katie Donovan: seamstress, mother to Flora, widow to Himself (a man who, though dead for twelve years, hilariously appears to keep surfacing). Fast-talking and opinionated, her seamstress eye for detail, colour and form bring every scene she describes to life: getting frozen in the draft before the curfew standing on top of my green painting chair, pinning the vermillion blankets over the window for the black-out with Scissors Number 1 in my hand for protection. What Evans does brilliantly through the voice of Katie Donovan is address the subject of violence: the overarching violence of the War of Independence, the violence of everyday living, and the blurred lines between. Described almost casually using matter-of-fact language, the violence resonates on a visceral level with the reader. Well, that’s the youth, I said, walking away with my messages. John Lucy’s lamb chops were dripping blood out of my basket Another was stooped over with the razor still in his hand when she pulled off the mask, I’ll identify you in court! Eileen, rash, to the last breath & he only grabbed the hand that pulled the mask, cut it in two between…

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