I’m taking a break today from The Happiness Plot in order to share with you my review of Ian McEwan’s new novel, The Children Act, a review which appeared this past weekend on The Catholic Thing.
In James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead,” Gabriel and Gretta Conroy are in a marriage grown cold. One night after a Christmas party Gabriel seeks to rekindle some of their passion. But Gretta is distracted by a song she had heard at the party, The Lass of Aughrim. When Gabriel presses her for her reasons for being so distracted by this song, Gretta admits that it was a song that used to be sung by a young man, Michael Furey, whom she was “great with” as a girl. Gabriel angrily asks Gretta if she is still in love with this Michael Furey. “He is dead,” Gretta explains. “He died when he was only seventeen. Isn’t it a terrible thing to die so young as that?” Gabriel, humiliated “by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks,” asks how Michael Furey died.
Gretta answers: “I think he died for me.”
The specter of Joyce’s Michael Furey came to me as I read Ian McEwan’s captivating, elegantly written, and disturbing new novel,The Children Act.