Happy birthday, Jill!!
Yes, again with the sweaters. I think I’m officially obsessed with these little rollneck sweaters in Lion Brand Amazing Yarn. After this one, I’ll try a different project…maybe.
I’m enjoying A Room of One’s Own, not so much because it is a seminal feminist text but in spite of that fact. In college I wouldn’t have had the patience for this book. Now, I love it, not only for its message about what women need to do to empower themselves as writers, but also for its digressions, like this little riff on prunes, which, according to Woolf, are “stringy as a miser’s heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers’ veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor” (18).
This made me smile too: “Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?” (26)
It’s really too bad that Virginia Woolf didn’t live long enough to be a guest on Oprah.
Yarn Along is hosted by Ginny on her wonderful blog, Small Things.
If you haven’t visited my Etsy store yet – or if you want to visit it again – you are cordially invited to do so here.
In Part Three Eneas finally gets some good news. He returns to England and visits the War Office, where he learns that his pension has been collecting while he was in Nigeria. He is a rich man with twelve hundred dollars. He buys a suit. He visits his sister Teasy in the convent, only to learn that she has cancer and will die soon. He then catches a plane home to Ireland to see his family and runs into Jonno Lynch in the airport. Jonno informs him that the sentence of death is still upon his head, though he shows no inclination to murder Eneas in the airport. He visits his family, visits Roseanne McNulty who is now living in the Sligo mental hospital. Then he goes back to England and buys a boarding house in the Isle of Dogs, a part of London where retired sailors always end up. Harcourt tracks him down, and they run the boarding house together and are happy for a time. Eventually, though, Eneas’ past comes back to haunt him and Jonno Lynch returns to finally kill him. He’s got an IRA apprentice with him, who accidentally shoots him. Eneas decides to fake his death by leaving Jonno’s body in his bed and burning down the boarding house. But, of course, he thinks he hears Jonno calling out to him, and he runs back in to save hime. And dies. But the last scene offers a bit of peace: “he rises in a fashion of immaculate peace and the fire does not harm him (305).” He sees Teasy and visits his father’s old garden. “And in bidding farewell to the lonesome earth, he knows suddenly and clearly the hard sadness of leaving the beautiful stations, the soft havens and hammered streets. And he gives recognition, with a lonesome prayer, to the difficulties of all living persons, and wishes them good journey through the extreme shoals of the long lake of life, with a last fare-thee-well and a God bless. To Harcourt in particular, his living brother (307-308).” The ending of this book is hardly happy, but I found peace and beauty in it nonetheless.
I’ve pretty much run out of interesting things to say about The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. Part Three granted Eneas some peace and happiness and stability for a few years, and it was lovely to see. Eneas’ last, wholly unselfish act, attempting to save the life of someone who has been out to kill him for close to fifty years, proves that he is a good person, not that there was any doubt about that in the first place. He is a victim of circumstance his whole life, but it never makes him jaded. He just keeps plugging away at life and never seems to give up hope that the good days are just around the corner. Perhaps that makes him naïve. But he has been a breath of fresh air to me. I may never figure out what really happened between Eneas and Roseanne McNulty, but I will always remember these two tragic heroes.
I wish that I’d been able to get through this book a little faster so I could have written a single review about it. It really was a beautifully written novel, though sometimes the tragedy of Eneas’ life got to be a bit much for me. Surely no one’s life is quite this terrible? It began to seem like Barry created Eneas just so he could throw all the badness of the world at a single human being to see what he was made of. And Eneas McNulty is made of stronger stuff than just about any person I’ve ever known. Who else would have tried to save his enemy when doing so was without a doubt going to end his life? Only Eneas.
The part of the book in which it becomes clear why it has the name it has: progress report on Sebastian Barry’s The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty
When last we spoke, Eneas McNulty had run from Ireland under pain of death from the IRA militants in his hometown of Sligo. Part Two details what he does after he leaves. I feel like Barry takes some liberties with time here. All of a sudden Eneas is fighting in World War II, and it seemed like just a few pages ago he was in Galveston, Texas during The Great War. Time moves quickly in Barry’s fiction, and that’s not a complaint, only an observation. It doesn’t help matters that I didn’t pick it up for a few days in the middle of reading this section, so I had kind of forgotten what was going on when I picked it up again.
This part of the novel is very episodic. Eneas works as a herring fisherman in the North Atlantic Ocean! Eneas goes to fight for England in France! Eneas goes AWOL and helps a Frenchman rebuild his farm! Eneas goes to a VA hospital in England! Eneas goes home to Ireland! Eneas goes to Nigeria to dig a ditch! It’s really kind of sad and lonely. Eneas doesn’t seem to make any significant connections with anyone, and when he finally returns home, those people haven’t forgotten about him. He bleakly hopes that maybe the death sentence will have been forgotten after twenty years away, but the Irish never forget anything (believe me, I know whereof I speak). My desire to call Eneas “Poor Eneas” continues in this part of the novel. When I started this paragraph I had a little bit of Part Two to go, and while Eneas is in Nigeria, he actually makes a friend, a Nigerian man named Harcourt. Harcourt is on the ditch crew with Eneas, and they form a friendship. When Harcourt is kicked off the work crew because he is epileptic and has a seizure while working, Eneas goes with him back to the city of Lagos. Now this part is happier, because Eneas finally has a friend, but also sad, because the two of them hang around in Lagos for eight years, and drink, and drink, and drink, and don’t work, and often sleep outdoors. I suppose one could say that they’re drunken bums. But that’s depressing, so I don’t really want to say that. The Nigerian army tries to press-gang Harcourt into service, and he disappears. At the end of Part Two, Eneas is onboard a ship, heading back to England
My major regret in my reading of this book is that it took me so long to get to it after reading The Secret Scripture. Part Two gives us a third person limited perspective of Eneas’ meeting with Roseanne McNulty. I don’t remember it going down the same way when Roseanne tells us about it in her book. But, as Barry himself says, “time is a dark puzzle, certainly (138),” even when it comes to remembering important parts of books read a little over a year ago. I remember raining and darkness, and maybe Eneas helped Roseanne deliver her baby. Or maybe this was another fellow. But none of this is mentioned in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, so maybe I’m confused. I’ve been trolling the internet trying to find a detailed plot summary of The Secret Scripture, but none has been forthcoming as of yet. And I don’t own the book, or this would be pretty easy to figure out. (This, friends, is why I used to never borrow books from anyone.) I considered buying it for my Kindle, since “my” Kindle usually lives with my mom and we are on vacation with my parents, but when I was fussing about this on Thursday night they were already in bed, and my mom probably had “my” Kindle under her pillow. She uses it to play Sudoku, mostly, and also to read what she refers to as “trash novels.” Someday I’ll write about my mom bequeathing me my love of reading, but not now. Now, we talk about Poor Eneas McNulty.
Like I said a couple of paragraphs ago, I just feel so sorry for Eneas: no family, no friends, no home. When he finally makes a friend that relationship disintegrates too, through no fault of his own or Harcourt’s. I know Irish novels aren’t known for their warm good feelings and happiness. What amazes me about this story is that it’s so damn depressing, I know it’s going to continue to be damn depressing, but I can’t help hoping that in Part Three Eneas will find a good job and a nice girl, settle down, and get to return home to Sligo to live out his days with his family. I know none of this happens because I accidentally read a plot summary while I was hunting for information about The Secret Scripture online on Thursday night. But I care about Eneas, and I want him to find some measure of happiness, however small, before I get to the end of his story. And that’s something that the Irish, or Barry, at least, excels at: writing these characters who can’t win at anything, but who the reader can’t help but root for. Or I can’t help it, at least.