Back of the Book: Elizabeth Reegan, after years of freedom – and loneliness – marries into the enclosed Irish village of her upbringing. The children are not her own; her husband is straining to break free from the servile security of the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose. Moving between tragedy and savage comedy, desperation and joy, John McGahern’s first novel is one of haunting power.
I can best describe The Barracks with one word: bleak. That said, I couldn’t stop reading. I’m amazed at how McGahern got inside a middle-aged woman’s mind. I felt like I was living her life – that’s how real he wrote her thoughts. I felt depressed, desperate, frustrated, angry, ill. His ability to convey real emotion is genius – it’s what keeps me coming back. There’s no mistaking his intent. His books are not easy reads for me but I’m reminded that good things are rarely easy.