An Irish Eye

Overview

Dervia O'Shannon, the 13-year-old who tells this tale, finds herself at the dawn of true womanhood when the children of Saint Martha's Home for Foundling Girls embark on a series of festive visits to Saint Clement's Home for Old Soldiers. There Dervia meets Corporal Stack, a wry malcontent and veteran of the First World War old enough to be Dervia's grandfather. What follows is a hilarious account of courtship involving Dervia's outrageously untrue letters to her Foundling Mother (Dervia is a born liar, says ...
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Overview

Dervia O'Shannon, the 13-year-old who tells this tale, finds herself at the dawn of true womanhood when the children of Saint Martha's Home for Foundling Girls embark on a series of festive visits to Saint Clement's Home for Old Soldiers. There Dervia meets Corporal Stack, a wry malcontent and veteran of the First World War old enough to be Dervia's grandfather. What follows is a hilarious account of courtship involving Dervia's outrageously untrue letters to her Foundling Mother (Dervia is a born liar, says Corporal Stack), the shocking injury that befalls Corporal Stack, and the pair's captivity in the near ruin of Great Manor, an Anglo-Irish estate inhabited only by the "young mistress" (a girl very like Dervia herself), her drunken brother, and a host of desolate babies. An Irish Eye is part myth, part tall tale, and part children's story intended only for adults - a rare achievement in its rendition of Dervia's "Irish" voice.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For nearly 50 years, readers have expected fictional experimentation from the acclaimed Hawkes (The Frogs). In his amusing, slight novel, however, the experiment takes an indistinct shape -- a bit of a myth, a children's story, a farce (with the "Irishness" of the title posed in a sardonic wink). The story concerns young Irish foundling Dervla "Thistle" O'Shannon, who narrates the curious sequence of events that befall her during her 13th year. The action starts on an orphanage visit to the neighboring Old Soldiers' Home, where Dervla befriends Corporal Stack, a WWI veteran several generations her senior. Together, they leave their homes, embarking on a curious courtship that soon finds the Corporal injured and both of them kidnapped and held captive in a declining Great Manor by a young mistress, her brother and a litter of desolate babies. Things only become stranger. The highlights of the story are the apocryphal letters Dervla writes to the head of the orphanage. Supposedly recounting her visit to the Corporal's family, they combine an Irish fairy tale with her own clever reimagining of her situation. Also wonderful are the delirious scenes in which Dervla meets the Corporal (scarily disguised in his old gas mask) or discovers her mistress's brother in a drunken, nauseated stupor. Unfortunately, these most vivid moments of the book exude a drama that neither the characters nor their far-fetched story seems designed to sustain.
Library Journal
This is a bit of a departure for Hawkes (e.g., Blood Oranges, 1972): a wry coming-of-age novel told from the vantage point of a 13-year-old foundling girl. When the orphans of Saint Martha's are taken to visit Saint Clement's Home for Old Soldiers, narrator Dervla finds herself paired with cantankerous World War I vet Corporal Stack. Soon in love, and this unconventional love story rings true, they "escape," only to find themselves, because of an injury to the corporal, more or less imprisoned in the ruined "Great Manor," populated by the Young Mistress; her obese, drunken brother; and a grim cast of servants. Funny (Dervla's fictional accounts of her adventures to her Foundling Mother are hilarious), fabulous (in the true sense of the word), with a sensuality not always suppressed and suspense to boot, this is great reading from a major author, showing strangely that you really can go home again. Highly recommended for all collections. -- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. Public Library, Syracuse, N.Y.
Library Journal
This is a bit of a departure for Hawkes (e.g., Blood Oranges, 1972): a wry coming-of-age novel told from the vantage point of a 13-year-old foundling girl. When the orphans of Saint Martha's are taken to visit Saint Clement's Home for Old Soldiers, narrator Dervla finds herself paired with cantankerous World War I vet Corporal Stack. Soon in love, and this unconventional love story rings true, they "escape," only to find themselves, because of an injury to the corporal, more or less imprisoned in the ruined "Great Manor," populated by the Young Mistress; her obese, drunken brother; and a grim cast of servants. Funny (Dervla's fictional accounts of her adventures to her Foundling Mother are hilarious), fabulous (in the true sense of the word), with a sensuality not always suppressed and suspense to boot, this is great reading from a major author, showing strangely that you really can go home again. Highly recommended for all collections. -- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. Public Library, Syracuse, N.Y.
Liam Callanan
. . .[A]n engaging blend of genres and literary traditions. . .that ultimately becomes a kind of post-modern picaresque. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The long-prolific Hawkes (The Cannibal, 1950) last offered the tale of a French boy who (The Frog) swallowed a frog; this time, in a perfect brogue from first to last, an orphaned Irish girl tells how she becomes—but better hush there, since hers is a story that comes down to a single surprise at end.

Thistle, however—real name Dervla O'Shannon—was left in a basket at the door of Saint Martha's home for foundlings, a great old pile of stone where, along with 30 or so others, she's raised (in maybe the best brief part of this brief little book) to the edge of puberty—around which time, on a group outing to Saint Clement's home for old soldiers, she meets a WW I veteran and ex-corporal named Teddy Stack (he's wearing his gas mask when Dervla first sets eyes on him), with whom—believe it or not—she falls madly in love. A symbolic embrace of history? A Joycean comment on the fate of Ireland? Whatever, much is in store for our Dervla—especially after Teddy gets kicked by the hoof of a jumping horse in a passing fox hunt, an injury that not only puts him into an amnesiac coma but also into the position (don't ask how) of the aged master of a grand, old, falling-down, gorgeously described manor house—the same half-abandoned house where Dervla (please, no questions) becomes first a scullery maid and then (disastrously) serving maid (she drops a whole roasted pig on the floor) before falling deathly ill, recovering in time to witness a second hunt, see a horse fall disastrously—and hear Teddy, its rider, suddenly knocked amnesia-free, re-declare his love to our Dervla before—but there's an end to it, for now.

A bauble, really, and yet nevertheless—told in one long fine poetic unbroken Irish sigh—the bauble of a master indeed.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783883809
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Series: G. K. Hall Core Ser.
  • Pages: 143
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 1.06 (d)

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