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After This Our Exile

by Aubrey Malone

Penniless Press, £13

reviewed by Buck Mulligan

 

This is a poignant novel about a farmerís son, Brian Kilcoyne,  from the town of Loughrea in Galway. He finds it difficult to cope with the death of his mother. His father, Bartley, is an alcoholic. Brian leaves the farm to go to college in Dublin. He splits with his childhood sweetheart Jennifer but they leave their relationship open with a possibility of continuing it in the future. 

While staying in a Dublin flat he begins a relationship with a drug addict whom he tries to wean off her habit.  He also becomes a published writer, having published a collection of poetry. In the summer he travels to Europe and has some adventures there as well as taking on a number of jobs. After his second year in college he drops out and travels to America. Here he has an affair with a cocktail waitress whoís marking time before travelling to Africa to help in a human aid project.

The book has its most emotional moments in the relationship here, with Brian wondering if itís going anywhere or if sheís just marking time with him. He also has guilt feelings about Jennifer.

The relationship ends and he returns to Ireland. By now his father has re-married but he doesnít get on with his stepmother, Angela.

His continuing feelings for the American barmaid, which he does his best to rid himself of, makes it difficult for him to take up with Jennifer where he left off. Marriage is mooted but he canít give himself over to any kind of permanence. By now Jennifer has had a child after a one night stand with another man. This complicates their relationship further.

Brian argues with Bartley. He also has problems with Angela , who fusses over him too much in an effort to replace his mother in his affections. A further source of conflict is his brother Declan, who runs a computer firm in Newbridge. Hehas a good relationship with Declanís wife, Yvonne, whoís been trying hard to have a baby for years..

By now Bartley is getting too old to run the farm. He does an auctioneering course and becomes an investor in a real estate firm in the town. He asks Brian to join him in it as it would provide a good future for him. Declan also considers opening a sister company in Newbridge beside his computer firm.

Declan and Bartley put pressure on Brian, who continues to drift, to commit to them. Brian vacillates. He pines for the old days as he tries to settle into his new life but finds this difficult. For a time he regenerates his love for Jennifer but there are too many tensions impinging on his mind to make his future any way secure.

I wonít reveal any more of the plot. Suffice to say the book is written in a terse, and often tense, style. Thereís a lot of dialogue but this also is terse and doesnít slow down the plot. There are many lyrical passages in the book, which will be of particular interest to Galway readers.

Itís on sale from the Amazon and Lulu websites.  Itís a novel of diaspora, of love and the end of love, and also a rite of passage story that chronicles a changing rural landscape and the resentment of a provincial mentality towards more cosmopolitan concerns. Its main strength is its focus on Brian as he changes his attitude to himself, his family and his roots as he seeks his identity in two different continents.

 To PPP page