Summary

That They May Face the Rising Sun is in many ways an inexplicable novel, which is to say that it seems to break with, rather than emerge from, any trajectory or pattern established by John McGahern's earlier work. It is therefore worth considering those aspects of the novel which differ from that earlier fiction. If McGahern's earlier style was a cross between a Joycean 'scrupulous meanness', with its attention to social detail, and the starkly exact prose of the all-but desocialized worlds of Samuel Beckett's post-war fiction, That They May Face the Rising Sun has an altogether richer, more lyrical style. McGahern has moved on from his earlier style in which, as Roger Garfitt puts it: 'his descriptive gift is used sparingly, and detail is only brought into focus ... when it creates an irony within the broader structure. The richness of the world is made palpable at the point when it is clearly helpless to fill the emptiness'. (2) In That They May Face the Rising Sun the world's richness is celebrated as much for its own sake as for any other reason. This is not to say that McGahern has given up or lost what Garfitt rightly praises as his 'impressive control' but rather that he is using that control in different ways and to different ends. This is evident in the structure as well as the style of That They May Face the Rising Sun. McGahern's novels have always involved some degree of circularity and the use of flashbacks. As Denis Sampson puts it with reference to Amongst Women:

You might also like...