DEATH AND NIGHTINGALES

Eugene McCabe, Author . Bloomsbury $23.95 (232p) ISBN 978-1-58234-237-5

Originally published in England in 1992, McCabe's powerful, gruffly lyrical novel, released for the first time in America, chronicles the struggles of a spunky, courageous young Irish woman in strife-torn Northern Ireland in the 1880s. Beth Winters enters the world with a strike against her: her mother is Catholic and her father is Protestant. Pregnant at the age of 25, Beth thinks back on the wretched existence of her late mother, Catherine, who was constantly badgered by her violent husband, Billy. Though he could never forgive Catherine for a particularly galling act of betrayal, of which Beth is a constant reminder, Billy conceives a grudging love and admiration for Beth. In moments of weakness, his love takes an unpleasant turn, and Beth is driven toward Liam Ward, a young Catholic who hates Billy for his wealth and power. McCabe, equally adept at scenes of furious action and heated intimacy, never lets the reader forget the Catholic-Protestant violence lying beneath the surface, even in the brutal clashes between father and daughter. Beth herself is acutely aware of the contradictions of her birth and heritage. When she finally steals away after a vicious beating by her father, McCabe cleverly sets up the riveting climax of the book, in which Beth is revealed to be as ruthless as Billy. It is the relationship between father and daughter, charged with a bitterly affectionate love and shared cleverness, that drives this novel, a fine book that rarely blinks at the bitter truths of life, loss and war. (Mar.)

Forecast:Known as a playwright in the 1970s, McCabe disappeared from the literary scene in the 1980s, only to return in 1992 with Death and Nightingales, a novel accorded high praise by Colm Tóibín and Michael Ondaatje. Strong reviews could give McCabe a fresh start in the U.S.

Reviewed on: 02/18/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Paperback - 221 pages - 978-1-58234-278-8
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