The Bodhran Makers

John B. Keane, Author
John B. Keane, Author Four Walls Eight Windows $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-941423-80-9
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 978-1-57098-063-3
Paperback - 353 pages - 978-0-86322-085-2
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Set in the impoverished rural Ireland of the 1950s, this novel, a bestseller there, is at once a rueful elegy to a vanished spirit and a comic celebration of an enduring theme in that country's letters-the indomitable Irishry. Keane, who wrote the play The Field (upon which a recent film was based), tells the tale of the village of Dirrabeg and the perennial battle between a handful of families who celebrate the pagan festivals and the Catholic Church, which in a pique threatens to excommunicate all who participate in the January Wrendance. The bodhran of the title (pronounced bow-RAWN) refers to the traditional Irish drum. Its sound--that strange mixture of life and antiquity--comes to represent the gaiety and poetry of a life lived for fun rather than in fear. Keane pits the charming Wren dance celebrants Donal Hallapy, Monty Whelan, Rubawrd Ring and others against the cruel, conniving Canon Tett, the parish priest. As in Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning play Dancing at Lughnasa, the unrestrained spirit triumphs over the repressive forces of organized religion, only to succumb to inexorable economic realities. There is abundant humor here-the revenge upon the wife and daughter of a church sympathizer is delicious; but perhaps the book's lasting achievement is its finely detailed portrait of rural poverty in Ireland. For those who wear the green, this book will provide a bounty of laughs and tears. (Oct.)
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