Charnel House

Eamonn McGrath, Author
Eamonn McGrath, Author Blackstaff Press $14.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-85640-447-4
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
This painfully truthful novel chronicles a year in the life of the tuberculosis patients of Ardeevan, a sanatorium in Ireland. It is the 1950s, when the disease was still one of the major causes of death in that country and when effective treatments were just coming into use. McGrath relatespk his story in brief and fragmented chapters, constantly shifting the focus and point of view from one patient to another. The center is 19-year-old Richard Cogley, a student who enters Ardeevan near death; after being treated with the new drug streptomycin, Cogley is well enough to venture tentatively back to the outside world. The snapshot-like chapters also reveal doctors, nurses and other patients, each tellingly brought to life by McGrath's ( Honour Thy Father ) wise prose. The world of a torturous, incurable disease, fraught with shame and stigma, recalls the AIDS crisis, as does Richard's reflection that ``as long as men could view with complacency the degradation of their fellow men, it was the worst kind of hypocrisy to ascribe evil in the world to an indifferent or malicious deity. The fatal flaw in human society was the ice at the heart of man himself.'' (Aug.)
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