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A Heartbreaking Tale of a Woman Already a Ghost in Her Own Home,
This review is from: The Barracks (Mass Market Paperback)
The late John McGahern wrote incredibly poetic and beautiful novels set in his native country. The Barracks is about a middle-aged woman named Elizabeth Reegan who marries a widowed man with three children. A frustrated police officer with dreams of buying his own farm, and fulfilling the legacy of the Reegans, her husband is a man all but oblivious to Elizabeth and her needs. Already a widower, when he learns Elizabeth has breast cancer he can hardly bring himself to face the reality. When his first wife died his only thought was what a horror it was seeing her in the morgue. Any feelings of love or support are simply beyond him, leaving Elizabeth to deal with mortality on her own.
As she worsens, declining into death, Elizabeth is able to observe the family as an outsider. Already all but a ghost, she watches them go about their daily tasks while inside she's screaming with frustration, hoping for any bit of attention or kindness she doesn't dare ask for.
The Barracks is a heartbreaking novel, and a masterful one. McGahern gets inside the head of Elizabeth, expressing her plight with such empathy it's staggering. The prose is poetic and lyrical. I would even say it's flawless, and as perfect a work of fiction as I've ever read.
What a loss to literature, and to humanity, when McGahern died earlier this year, leaving behind him an award-winning body of fiction. There simply aren't enough contemporary writers out there like McGahern, more's the pity, but that's what made him stand out like a shining light while he was alive. Better to have written like an angel and then been lost than never to have written like an angel at all.