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Lagan Love by Peter Murphy

Lagan Love by Peter Murphy is a dense novel steeped in Irish lore and angst.  Janice, a Canadian, is a young student at the famed Trinity in Dublin, and she is easily swept up in the tumult that clings to the brooding poet Aiden.  She’s a student who dreams of painting and traveling the world, and at one point dreams of her life with Aiden as the famous poet and painter duo.  Is Aiden a struggling poet who has sold his soul for a few hundred dollars and a published collection, or is he the next Seamus Heaney?

His first collection of poems is published with the help of Gwen/Bridey, with whom he’s sleeping and who is married.  Aiden thinks that by introducing Gwen and Janice, he can ensure Janice’s paintings get noticed and that his affair with Gwen remains a secret because publicly Janice will be seen as his muse/girlfriend.  It’s not just Gwen, Aiden, and Janice, but Sinead as well who are searching.  Searching for love or the darknesss within the light and vice versa.

“The dawn sprinkled the suburbs with golden promise that paled in the older parts of town, down streets broad and narrow to the docklands where everything was just plain and ordinary.  Another brave new world beckoned, but Dublin was dubious — too often hope had been trampled down by foreign armies or strangled in dark alleys by the shadows of avarice and graft.”  (page 9)

There are a number of references to ghosts, love, revolution, and even a succubus, which readers will have to wade through, discern the meaning of, and tackle before they can care about these characters with any real depth.  Some cliched images and language are used throughout the novel, but those should not detract from the picture Murphy creates with his words.  However, the density of the narration and metaphors does become too heavy, distancing the reader from the characters and possibly even causing them to step away from the book for a while.  Beyond the density of the narration, there are several moments in the novel where the reader will be distracted by transitions between scenes and characters that are muddied, making it a puzzle readers must solve before they can delve back into the story (i.e. like the aftermath of one fight between Sinead and Janice — where readers may have a difficult time determining which character is in the next scene).

“His mind was a mess of disorganized verses piled on top of each other.  Some were orphans and would wither, but others lingered defiantly, like stones in his shoes.  They were the ones he found the time to polish.  But even some of them were destined to irrelevance.” (page 20)

Like the love song, “My Lagan Love,” the novel is a bumpy ride but with an undercurrent of devotion to love and country.  Murphy explores not only love and inspiration, but what it means to be an artist, especially an artist hungry for their voice to be heard.  What is an artist willing to give up or what kind of compromises are they willing to make?  He answers these questions, but also leaves a bit of mystery behind for the reader to examine and unravel.  Lagan Love is a complex as love itself, particularly when artists and simply men and women are competing for the affections of the same person — even if only to be in control.  Murphy’s style is as complex as his characters, but readers will be absorbed in the forlorn myths and legends created and expounded upon.

About the Author:

Peter Murphy was raised in Dublin, in a house full of books.  After a few years studying life in Grogan’s, he wandered through the cities of Europe before setting out for Canada, for a while, and has been there ever since, raising a family.  Lagan Love is his first novel.

 

This is my 1st book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 29th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

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  • Not sure I can manage all the myth and folklore -they are not usually my thing. Thanks for your excellent review of this book!

  • Part of me thinks this sounds fascinating and part of me thinks it might be too dense for me to enjoy. Maybe I’ll check out your copy at some point, as you know how I love to read stories set in Ireland.

    • I think you have to be in the right frame of mind for this one and it can’t be nice and sunny outside. This really is a dark book in a way

  • Your review tempts me – in spite of the complexity. Hmmmm…. (I linked this review on the main challenge page. )

    • If you give it a try, I hope to check out your review.

  • That sounds like an interesting book.

    You may want to read The Bird Woman by Kerry Hardie for your Ireland Challenge. I think you’ll like it.

  • Normally, I would think this book wouldn’t be my kind of thing — I’m not wild about broody men or cheating — but your description of the novel really grabbed me! It sounds like a lovely rainy day read — so I’ll bank it for October and November when Boston is good and gray.

    • I was attracted to the book for the Irish theme and history, the folklore, and the poetry, but I got much more. It is a good book for a darker day, not so much for sunshine and beach weather.

  • Beth Hoffman

    Sometimes I’m in the mood for a book like this, and it does sound like there’s a lot of richness to be mined from the pages!

    • This book contains a very rich story, and the bits about the Irish folklore are amazing.

  • I’ve become more interested in Ireland lately, but this book sounds like it might be a little dense for me right now.

    • Since I posted my halfway challenge update, I’ve started to focus more on the challenges that I’ve failed to read any books in. Despite this book’s density, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it if you are in the mood. It’s not a quick summer read by any means.