by Peter Murphy
Release Date: June 7, 2011
2011 The Fiction Studio
Softcover Edition; 328 Pages
Source: Review Copy from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations
4 / 5
In the 1980s, Ireland was on the brink – the Celtic Tiger was yet to arise and change the face, and faces, of Dublin with prosperity and foreigners. Volatile anger, shimmering myths and lachrymose poetry still ruled the night as rough-hewn workers and lost university students hefted pints at Grogan’s pub.
Stepping into the swirling blend of the old and the new is Janice, a young painter from Toronto, who has crossed the ocean to seek passion in her life and her art. Her affair with Aidan, Ireland’s rising poet, leads her through the veil of the Celtic Twilight to a place of reward and danger.
Drawing on Ireland’s rich history and mellifluous ability to speak legend into art through such Irish geniuses as William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, Murphy weaves a tale that draws on Celtic lore as much as the hard facts of economic recovery. Into the lives of Janice and Aidan and their more practical friends walks the mysterious Gwen, who may be far more than the beautiful seductress she seems on the surface. Trailing Gwen like cigarette smoke in a tavern is the myth of the leanan sídhe, or lenanshee, a fairy spirit who inspires lovers to ever-greater creative heights – at a price. Can the levelheaded Sinead, who has dedicated herself to seizing new career opportunities, or the kind and romantic Ronan, keep their friends from being swept away by the Ireland that dwells just beneath the surface?
Lagan Love is a story that weaves the old Irish folk legends, lore, mythologies, and history and blends that into a tale of lust, treachery, and betrayal set during the turbulent times of the eighties, a time on the brink of change and prosperity in Ireland. We are introduced to a Canadian woman Janice, upon being left money by her father, decides to study abroad in Ireland, and immerse herself in the fascinating culture and history of Ireland. Miserable and unsuited to the climate she sees around her, she meets Aiden, a volatile and talented poet, who indulges her interest in mythology and history. While those around them do not foresee the relationship lasting, the two of them connect through their art, hers through painting, his through poetry, and he introduces her to the depths of the Irish people, to their mythologies and histories, to the heart of the Irish people. Seeming staid and proper at first, Janice slowly succumbs to the fantasy of the folklore, until she has difficulty distinguinshing between what is real and what is fantasy. As her world disintegrates, she looks more and more to the mythology and folklore for answers to her problems.
Lagan Love is definitely not easy to read, and you have to know quite a bit about the history and folklore behind it in order to understand some of the passages and he meanings behind what is being said. Having an understanding of the history of the Irish people, and a background in some of their mythologies and folklore would be a definite asset while reading this novel. It can be quite complex at times, and even having this knowledge didn't always help me in certain circumstances. The novel can be gritty and shows life pretty much as it would have been in the eighties, where life was tough for a lot of people and many people were losing their jobs and blaming the government. I imagine some very similar scenes happening today in many countries around the world.
One of the things I really enjoyed was the raw emotions of the characters. Although I wasn't particularly fond of Aiden most of the time, I really admired his love for his country and his wild appreciation and pride for his ancestors and everything they accomplished. As a history lover, I appreciated all of those little tidbits thrown in about Ireland's past as well as the folklore as it makes you remember that we have to thank those people who lived long before us for what they accomplished and gave us. Reading this novel also gave me a greater appreciation for what I have in my own country. As I followed Janice's path, being Canadian myself, I loved her irony whenever she described anything Canadian as I could certainly appreciate everything she said and even found some sections funny. I know that Peter Murphy now lives in Canada so maybe he was trying to show that people don't always know what another country is like and you always hear the funny things about another country, and not always the truth. Anyways, I loved the irony.
Lagan Love is graphic, giving you a more complex and detailed view of Ireland during this time period. While somewhat slow in sections, it is still a fascinating portrayal of Ireland and the characters are rich in detail and interesting. This was a fascinating first novel, and I am looking forward to reading further works by this author.