The Sinners’ Bell
By: Kevin Casey
‘In the distance a bell rang … Somehow she knew that she was sharing an emotion with the vast city. Behind the ugly fronts, the dirty windows of countless houses, loneliness must be hidden away like cobwebs in dark corners.’– The Sinners’ Bell by Kevin Casey
Helen’s expectations were far from starry-eyed, but married life with Frank in the late 1960s seemed bewilderingly joyless; from the honeymoon in a seedy Paddington hotel complete with dirty linen and a nosy landlady, her new husband drinking until all hours with a shady ‘friend’, their first home in his parents’ Irish pub, in a provincial backwater town. Frank’s father was his own best customer, his mother a shrill and censorious presence in the background, with the local priest as her only friend. Would she allow a sense of hopefulness to creep upon her when she finds out that a baby is on the way?
The Sinners’ Bell is the first novel of Kevin Casey, originally published in 1968 by Faber & Faber. He reveals a striking capacity to convey with sympathy and unsentimental understanding the feelings of the inarticulate, and his portrayal of Helen’s struggle to come to terms with her own unhappiness is profoundly moving. Atmospheric and finely written, this exposé of a shotgun wedding and subsequent marriage is a jewel of narration, and a reissue that is long overdue.
Kevin Casey was born in Kells, Co. Meath in 1940 and went to Blackrock College, Dublin. Once the Abbey’s youngest playwright, and married to poet Eavan Boland, he is author of critically acclaimed works The Sinner’s Bell (1968), A Sense of Survival (1974) and Dreams of Revenge (1977).
‘Kevin Casey’s first novel, originally published in 1968 by Faber & Faber, and republished now by the Lilliput Press, is terrifically good. Its depiction of what small-town Ireland used to be like, and its unflinching portrayal of the shuttered and pinched misery in which so many ordinary people existed rather than lived, is a terrifying reminder of a land where suspicion, jealousy, fear, puritanism and ignorance ruled.’ IRISH TIMES