Whoredom in Kimmage CL

Rosemary Mahoney, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (307p) ISBN 978-0-395-60201-0
``There's only one sin in Ireland. Sex.'' So says Jean O'Brien, one of the progressive Irish women portrayed in this marvelously insightful, funny, disturbing, yet ultimately hopeful book. Mahoney ( The Early Arrival of Dreams ) looks at Irish women and their efforts to bring Ireland--in terms of personal choice and freedom--into the late 20th century. The author, who is an American of Irish descent, dissects the Irish--men and women alike--through their words and actions. Unremarkably, most of the book's focus is spent in pubs in Dublin and Corofin, County Clare. We listen to Francis, the wise publican at Dillon's pub: `` . . . if the Dutch were in Ireland, they'd own half of Europe, and if the Irish were in Holland, they'd drown,'' and we encounter the extraordinary women of J. J. Smythe's lesbian bar in Dublin on their Saturday night adventures. Outside the pub, we meet with a diverse group of characters: Ruth Riddick, the activist most responsible for bringing information about birth control to Ireland; the conservative and saturnine members of the Legion of Mary; Eavan Boland, who tells us about the problems of being an Irish woman poet; and Mary Robinson, who with her election as president, has turned what in essence used to be a patronage job for aged political hacks into an office of respect, prestige and voice. The author portrays the sexual tension (much of it fueled by alcohol) that permeates the society. We also see the fruits of that sexual tension--a notably high illegitimacy rate and its social and political fallout. Mahoney, who has a wonderful ear for the expletive-filled Irish use of English, has the ability to chill the bones and make one feel loneliness as a theme of Irish life. Ultimately, this struggle for Irish sexual freedom may yet be fought in the streets of Dublin, like the political revolution of 1916. For as President Robinson says, ``In a society where the rights and potential of women are constrained, no man can be truly free. He may have power, but he will not have freedom.'' First serial to Mirabella; BOMC alternate and QPB selection; author tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
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