By the Lake by John McGahern


This is a warm and loving account of a year in the life of a village in Ireland set at a time I can't clearly identify, probably the 1960s.  The central characters are a couple who moved to the country years before, leaving their successful careers in London behind.  They are sensible and reasonable, the most conventional of the zany characters we meet.  There's Jamesie who is a gossip and cannot bear not to be the first to hear news, his brother Johnny who threw over a fine life in the village on account of a woman who didn't care for him, John Quinn who "took" his bride moments after the wedding ceremony in view of the whole wedding party, the Shah, the rich man of the village who cannot read or write, and it goes on. 

Not much happens; well, actually, Johnny comes home for a month as he does every summer, a cow has a calf, a lamb is crushed to death, the hay is successfully harvested, some cattle are sold at market for a good price, the Shah sells his business to someone who worked for him for years, and one character dies.  And we learn of the beauty of rural Ireland.  The writing is lovely, if placid, and the author is a favorite of Reading Matters.

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