The sonnet emerged in the Renaissance just as the concept of an explorable and variable self became culturally pervasive. Like a multi-barred cage within which the heart, mind and body paces like a bear, the form allowed sophisticated selves to show themselves to be sophisticated.
In Kathleen Jamie’s new collection, the prose is matter-of-fact as well as lyrical – we come away full of a sense of things having been placed in order, dissected, rattled enough to ensure they fall back into place in a way that makes them catch the light that little bit more.
Initially, unionists and nationalists equally opposed partition, which was first proposed by British politicians in 1912 as a short-term expedient to overcome deadlock. In this context, the creation of two parliaments in Ireland served to delegate responsibility for unification to the Irish.
In poem after poem we recognise Jean O’Brien’s signature style, her unique perspective as myth-maker who takes what is real and gives it back to us in all its mysterious particularity, whether a health check or a sea ride from Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, her daughter’s tattoo or a swing in autumn.
Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s new collection is preoccupied with the many tensions of French and Irish cultural and political history from the late nineteenth century through to contemporary times, tensions which are deftly revealed through personal stories of the many inhabitants of this book.
An account of Irish history whose gaze is fixed on intellectual or elite culture and does not engage with whole areas of the existence of the inhabitants of the island, particularly those who found themselves on the sharp end of colonisation, must necessarily be an incomplete one.
Zadie Smith has said that she is not by nature a political person, her business as a writer rather being ‘the intimate lives of people’. Nevertheless, she concurs with Orwell that all writing is political and has been particularly concerned to explore the politics of identity.
Most people born today can expect to become centenarians, but the structuring of education and work are still built around outdated models. These are now under attack from two sides: the reality that retirement could last 40 years and the threat to jobs from automation, AI and robots.
Emma Donoghue’s tenth novel is concerned with the relationship between an elderly man and his eleven-year-old grandnephew, who is entrusted to him after his mother is imprisoned for drug abuse. While the narrative deals with some of the darker aspects of life, this is not a dark book.