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An Aran Keening

By: Andrew McNeillie

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 1 customer rating
(2 customer reviews)

25.00

‘McNeillie’s writing is beautiful, the poetic style of this memoir and his philosophical musings on life make this a book to linger over.’ – Irish Examiner

‘An utterly absorbing book about being solitary and a little lonely in a solitary and lonely place, about being an outsider in a place that was itself an outsider. The sense of sadness permeates the book. It makes the observations on the place and the strange community which he encountered all the more beguiling.’ – Harry McGee, Sunday Tribune

In November 1968, at the age of twenty-two, Andrew McNeillie left his job and his girlfriend in Wales and travelled to Inishmore. He was not a tourist: he stayed eleven months in Aran, living alone in a tiny house. An Aran Keening is a richly lyrical memoir of that time, a celebration of the island and its people, a lament for a way of life that was infused with a deep sadness then and that no longer exists.

Based closely on a contemporary journal and on letters home – which are quoted at length, and which show the author to have been an immensely gifted young writer – An Aran Keening tells of a time before electricity and landing strips, a time of true poverty for many. Island life was, in both mind and body, more stark and dramatic then than now; it stood closer to the candle- and horse-powered nineteenth century than to the digitized twenty-first. McNeillie fished and trapped for his food – his accounts of his methods are among the most dazzling passages in the book – and writes with great love, but without a trace of romanticism, about the natural world of Aran. With extraordinary sensitivity and subtlety, he recounts the awkward, sometimes fraught, but ultimately enriching interactions between the green outsider he was and the people of Inishmore, and the islanders’ tragic internal struggles.

An Aran Keening commemorates both the immortality of youth, in all its courage, folly and quick tenderness of heart, and the passing of a world. It is a singular addition to the literature of Aran and, in this age of two-a-penny memoirs, one of the finest works in that genre to come out of these islands in recent decades.

‘McNeillie’s prose can be as pristine and effervescent as the sea’s edge on a summer beach. Sometimes it is loaded with biblical and Shakespearean fragments like Aran’s winter tides glinting with torn bits of seaweed. So there is no end to the making of books on Aran. Fortunately, good writing feeds its subject, rather than feeding off it and Aran is once again a larger place than it was.’ – Tim Robinson, The Irish Times

‘An utterly absorbing book about being solitary and a little lonely in a solitary and lonely place, about being an outsider in a place that was itself an outsider. The sense of sadness permeates the book. It makes the observations on the place and the strange community which he encountered all the more beguiling.’ – Harry McGee, Sunday Tribune’McNeillie becomes a tragi-comic genius when recording the oddities of the few humans he encounters on the island. Never sentimental, always entertaining and exquisitely written, An Aran Keening draws you into its rigorous world with the twin embrace of tenderness and wit.’ – Sunday Business Post

‘An Aran Keening effortlessly attracts the reader with its sharp self-assessment and rueful comedy, but above all with its intelligent and considered evocation of creatures and weather and a community living on the edge of the world.’ – John Fuller

 

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2 reviews for An Aran Keening

  1. Lilliput Press

    ‘McNeillie’s prose can be as pristine and effervescent as the sea’s edge on a summer beach…. a worthy addition to the canon, Aran is once again a larger place than it was.’ – TIM ROBINSON, Irish Times ‘An Aran Keening marks out and occupies its own territory… it caught me in its spell.’ – TOM PAULIN ‘An Aran Keening effortlessly attracts the reader with its sharp self-assessment and rueful comedy, but above all with its intelligent and considered evocation of creatures and weather and a community living on the edge of the world.’ – JOHN FULLER

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Simply stated, this is a great book! Once I started reading it I honestly could not put it away. McNeillie brilliantly captures the whole island mentality and daily experience of hardship, self sufficiency, self governance, violence and the whole myriad of individual peculiarities associated with island life. Such as when McNeillie finds himself in the early hours of the morning witnessing strange individuals lurking behind stone country walls, perhaps seeking shelter or maybe the worse for wear after a hard night’s drinking in one of the local pubs. It succinctly illustrates what it really is like for an outsider to find himself living among the island natives and also records how ‘one slip of the tongue’ in an island pub can lead to all sorts of trouble and strife for the guilty party. Overall this book explores the courage and desire of one young man to pursue and fulfill his dream of living a secluded life on an island off the coast of western Ireland. Finally, on a personal note McNeillie manages to describe with acute detail how the drab city of Galway (my hometown)was in the late 1960s. It seems a world removed from the Galway and Ireland we know of today. Superb book!” DAMIEN

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ISBN
9781901866637
Weight 0.5 kg
publication-date

March 2001

format

215×136, 233pp