The Run of the Country

Shane Connaughton, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-312-07077-9
In this extraordinary first novel, the realms of tragedy and comedy are deftly balanced by a writer whose authority is matched by his love of language. Connaughton ( A Border Station ; co-screenwriter of My Left Foot ) has set his tale along the border where Ireland has been arbitrarily divided. As the Catholic protagonist comes of age in the 1950s, he learns the meaning of death, experiences the hatred of strangers and feels the never-to-be-forgotten passion of a first love affair. The reader, however, never learns his name, nor that of the young man's father, a sergeant in the Border Police. The boy's best friend is identified only by his surname, Prunty. The device is not tiresome, however; Connaughton preserves the delicate balance of his cast by means of fully delineated characters, controlled plotting and the richness of his language. The comical Prunty--his speech filled with proverbs, aphorisms, puns and vulgarities--is a modern Huck Finn to the protagonist's Tom Sawyer. Together they smuggle goods across the border, gamble on cock fights, play tricks on unsuspecting farmers and fight with the Protestant boys. But the reality of the border and of the enmity it symbolizes is driven home. Ironically it is the father, whose job is to keep the peace along the border, who best sums up the novel's message: ``If they wanted peace,'' he says to his son, ``they wouldn't put a border up, would they? A border is a wall. Misguided fools will always smash their heads against it.'' (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-0-312-08883-5
Paperback - 978-0-312-13599-7
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-14-017520-2
Show other formats
Discover what to read next