My Reading – January 2023

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris
If you had set out in the summer of 1660 to travel the four miles from Boston to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first house you would have come to after crossing the Charles River would have been the Goodkins’.

Foster by Claire Keegan
Early on Sunday, after first Mass at Clonegal, my father, instead of taking me home, drives deep into Wexford towards the coast where my mother’s people came from.

My Watching

An Cailín Ciúin/The Quiet Girl is an Irish-language film adaptation of Foster by Claire Keegan. It is another case where I saw the film before I read the novella. After reading the book, I watched the film a second time (DVD from the local library) and was struck by how skillful the adaptation was with slight movements of the characters and the framing of shots carrying the weight of whole paragraphs.

Both follow a nine year old girl sent, over the summer holidays of 1981, to spent time on the farm of older relatives of her mother’s. She is a withdrawn neglected child, one of a large family, her parents are farmers too. Her mother is about to give birth again and barely coping with her large family and running the farm; her father is feckless and given to easy lies. In the warmth of the older couple’s care, the child begins to blossom.

Foster’s spare, lyrical prose paints a realistic world and has great emotional depth. The film is stunning to watch, from the depressing interiors of the girl’s home to the warmth and order of the Cinnsealach/Kinsella’s farm. In the film the girl is named as Cáit. The film captures the nuances of Keegan’s writing down to the final line. Both book and film are beautiful and memorable and I would recommend them absolutely.

‘You don’t ever have to say anything,’ he says. ‘Always remember that as a thing you need never do. Many’s the man lost much just because he missed a perfect opportunity to say nothing.’ (p.66)

An Cailín Ciúin is the first Irish-language film to be shortlisted for an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category.

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