I've written a lot about Deidre Madden since I started this blog, most recently only a fortnight ago, but also before that here, and I'm afraid I've got two more titles to highly recommend to you (or at least, I hope to entice you into reading at least one of the earlier Deidre Madden's so that you can join me in wondering why it was not until she was Orange-shortlisted that she really seems to have gained some popularity).
I mentioned before that some of her earlier titles are currently being reprinted, and I had another one of these from the library this week: Nothing is black. This is the story of Claire, an artist, who receives a summer-long visit from her cousin Nuala. Along with Anna, a neighbour, we see the three women spending the summer thinking about their lives and roles as women as they help each other through various crises. It is a lot more gripping than I make it sound!
One of the things I like about Madden is the way that the choice of title reveals itself during the book - I noticed that with One by one in the darkness. The title Nothing is black comes from Claire remembering her childhood curiosity about colour, and repeated questioning as to why things were the colours they are. This is linked with Frieda Kahlo's writings on colour, which includes the phrase "Nothing is black". I must find out more about Kahlo as the extract included by Madden was very profound.
The other Madden that I've read this week is her first novel: Hidden symptoms which won the Rooney prize for Irish Literature in 1987. This was very different to her other novels and I will be interested to see if it gets republished. It is a lot more about the effects of living in Ireland under the IRA regime, and the events seem less important than the discussions about politics and religion that they inspire. I have really gained a great insight into the life of Northern Ireland from reading Madden's books.
I have found a really great review of all of Madden's books - far better than anything I could write - here.
If you decide that you do like Madden, another author who touches on similar themes is John McGahern. I recently read Amongst women and enjoyed that very much too.
Rhubarb, Lemon, and Elderflower Pancakes
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