Approaching Priests

Mary Leland, Author Sinclair-Stevenson, $0 (290p) ISBN 978-1-85619-065-7
Leland's second novel (after The Killeen ) has a great deal to say about contemporary Irish society. Not all of it is new but some of it is insightful, particularly those sections discussing the country's turbulent relationship with Britain. Even so, the novel is probably not the correct form for the observations she chooses to make. The protagonist, Claire, is a junior reporter for a newspaper in Cork. She is ambivalent about many issues, such as membership in the EEC, the survival of the Irish language, the legacy of the Troubles, and the relationship between church and state. She is surrounded by people who are far less ambivalent, including her sometime lover Leon, a left-wing political activist, her friend Father Damien, and her neighbor Raphael, a mentally unstable religious fanatic. Though the novel covers two decades in Claire's life, it is essentially plotless, mainly an interior monologue as she reacts to the other characters. Themes are more important than events, and the novel's strongest moments are those that sound the least like fiction. These are discussions in which the characters serve only as advocates for philosophical positions. When not discussing ideas, Leland slips into overripe prose, as inappropriate as is her journalistic style. Like Claire, Leland has worked as a reporter; obviously, she has not succeeded in bridging the gap between fact and fiction. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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