Jennifer Johnston (1930- )

b. 12 Jan. 1930., Dublin; dg. Denis Johnston and Shelagh Richards and sis. of Michael [Robin] Johnston; played page to her mother’s St. Joan in Shaw’s play of that title (Olympia Th., 1943); brought up at Greenfield Manor, off Nutley Lane in Dublin 4, after departure of her father for the war and his subseq. marriage to Betty Chamberlain; ed. Park House Girls’ School, Morehampton Rd., and entered TCD, joining Trinity Players; left TCD on failing First Year exams; m. solicitor Ian Smyth, 1951 [aetat. 21], with whom children Patrick, Malcolm, Sarah and Lucy; settled for a year in Paris, where Smyth worked with film company; began writing fiction but destroyed early efforts, incl. The Gates (1973), a novel;
issued The Captains and the Kings (1972), dealing with the relationship between war-survivor Mr Prendergast and the Catholic boy Diarmid, leading to the older man’s being ostracised as a ‘sex maniac’; published by Hamish Hamilton after rejection by several London houses; winner of Yorkshire Post Fiction Award; followed rapidly by The Gates (1973), though written earlier - ‘just teaching myself how to write really’; divorced in 1974 from Smyth, who later married Vogue editor Deirdre MacSharry and settled in Bath; issued How Many Miles to Babylon? (1974), dealing with the World War I; issued Shadows on Our Skin (1977), the cross-community experience of a Catholic boy in Derry during the Troubles with an epigraph and title from a lyric by Horslips; shortlisted for Booker Prize;
m. David Gilliland and settled in Brook Hall [see infra], his family home; issued The Old Jest (1979), the story of Lois, a daughter of an Anglo-Irish family who finds personal independence through 8 days’ events in the War of Independence recorded in her diary; winner of Whitbread Prize; issued The Christmas Tree (1981), dealing with gender issues; issued The Railway Station Man (1984), ded. ‘with admiration’ to her mother and father - set in Donegal and dealing with arrival of Mr Hawthorne, an English railway enthusiast, his relationship with the middle-aged Helen Cuffe, the frame-story narrator who is being a Protestant from Dublin and whose teacher-husband has been killed in the Troubles - the novel ending with Hawthorne's death along with his assistant Damian and her son Jack - both IRA associates and rivals;
The Old Jest filmed as The Dawning with Anthony Hopkins as ‘the travelling man’, 1986; issued Fool’s Sanctuary (1987), centred on Miranda Martin and dealing with the conflict between her brother, engaged on information-gathering for the government, and her lover, a Republican volunteer who sacrifices himself to save him; narrated in old age at Termon, a big house in Co. Cork; left Hamish Hamilton with editor Christopher Sinclair Stevenson; issued The Invisible Worm (1991), concerning paternal incest and the tragedies arising from it, winner of Daily Express best book, 1992;
worked with prisoners in H-Block, Long Kesh/Maze, in 1993; had three dramatic monologues premiered at Linen Hall Library, 8th March 1996; issued The Illusionist (1995), in which Stella, a writer, describes the hold that her husband Martyn, the ‘illusionist’ of the title and a brutal deceptive man, has over her; he combines magic displays with gun-dealings, and is eventually blown up by the IRA; stage-version of How Many Miles to Babylon? (Lyric Th., Belfast; Sept. 1994); her play Desert Lullaby premiered (Lyric Th. Belfast; Oct. 1996); two earlier plays, The Nightingale Not the Lark and The Invisible Man, launched in America at the Irish Repertory Theatre, New York, April 1997; served on the boards of the Abbey Theatre (Dublin) and the and the Lyric Th. (Belfast);
issued Two Moons (1998), a novel of three generations dealing with family bonds and ageing; literary awards incl. Robert Pitman, the Yorkshire Post literary award, and Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio play; issued The Gingerbread Woman (2000), novel charting the relationship between a Southern Protestant woman and a northern widower, each with tragic memories, set in Killiney; donates her papers to TCD Library, Nov. 2000; awarded DLitt. by TCD, May 2001; retired from the Abbey Th. Board, giving place to Loretta Brennan Glucksman, 2002;
issued This is Not a Novel (2002), narrating the trauma of Imogen, who loses a brother through drowning, and that of her grandmother, who lost a son in Gallipoli; issued Grace and Truth (2005), a story of betrayal; issued Foolish Mortals (2007), and Truth or Fiction (2006), the story of Desmond Fitzmaurice, a war journalist - like Johnston’s father - and his women and children; Johnston is a member of Aosdana; received Irish Pen/AT Cross Literary Award, presented by Roddy Doyle, Jan. 2006. DIW HOG FDA OCIL

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  • The Captains and the Kings (London: Hamish Hamilton 1972), 142pp., Do., rep. (London: Fontana, 1982).
  • The Gates (London: Hamish Hamilton 1973; rep. London: Fontana 1983).
  • How Many Miles to Babylon? (London: Hamish Hamilton 1974; rep. London: Fontana 1981).
  • Shadows on Our Skin (London: Hamish Hamilton 1977; Penguin 1991) [ded. ‘for Brian Friel with constant admiration’].
  • The Old Jest (London: Hamish Hamilton 1979), 167pp. [ded. to her 2nd husband: ‘for D.J.T.G. with love’], filmed as The Dawning, and rep. as The Dawning (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1988), 167pp.
  • The Christmas Tree (London: Hamish Hamilton 1981; rep. London: Fontana 1982).
  • The Railway Station Man (London: Hamish Hamilton 1984), 187pp.
  • Fool’s Sanctuary (London: Hamish Hamilton 1987; Headline 1999), 152pp.
  • The Invisible Worm (London: Sinclair Stevenson 1991; reps. Penguin 1992), 182pp.; Do. (NY: Carroll & Graf 1993), and Do. [new edn.] (London: Review 1999), 224pp.
  • The Illusionist (London: Sinclair Stevenson 1995; Minerva 1997; Vintage 1999), 219pp.
  • Two Moons (London: Headline Review 1998), 232pp.
  • The Gingerbread Woman (London: Review 2000), 213pp.
  • This is Not a Novel (London: Review 2002), 213pp. [i.m. Francis Ledwidge].
  • Grace and Truth (London: Review 2005), 223pp.
  • Foolish Mortals (London: Headline Review 2007), 250pp.
  • Truth or Fiction (London: Headline Review 2009), 160pp.

Omnibus Edns., The Essential Jennifer Johnston, ed. [preface by] Sebastian Barry (London: Review 1999), 435pp. [The Essential Jennifer Johnston, Contents: The Captains and the Kings; The Railway Station Man; Fool’s Sanctuary, Review]

  • Indian Summer (Lyric Players Th., Belfast, 1984, unpublished).
  • The Nightingale not the Lark (Dublin: Raven Arts 1988) [title play, with The Porch and The Invisible Man]
  • Three Monologues: “Twinkletoes”; “Mustn’t Forget High Noon”; “Christine” (Belfast: Lagan Press 1995), 68pp.
  • The Desert Lullaby: A Play in Two Acts (Belfast Lagan Press 1996), 51pp.
  • Selected Short Plays (Dublin: New Island 2003), 126pp.
  • ‘Jennifer Johnston’, [autograph chapter] in A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Girl, ed. John Quinn (London: Methuen 1986; rep. Mandarin 1990), pp.49-62.
  • Keynote Address to Cultures of Ireland Group’ [27-28 Sept. 1991], in Culture in Ireland, Division or Diversity?, ed. Edna Longley (QUB 1991), pp.10-18 [giving a personal account of her family].
  • Preface to Helen Lewis, A Time to Speak (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992) [on Nazi concentration camps].
  • contrib. to Irish Women Writers Speak Out: Voices from the Field, ed. Caitriona Moloney & Helen Thompson, eds., with a foreword by Ann Owen Weekes (Syracuse UP 2003), q.pp.
  • contrib. (‘I have a desire to go’ [short fiction], on Human Rights Article 15 to The Irish Times “Republic of Conscience” series. [2012; q.iss.]

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  • Brian Donnelly, ‘The Big House in the Recent Novel’, in Studies, 64 (Summer 1975), pp.134-42.
  • Seán McMahon, ‘Anglo-Irish Attitudes: The Novels of Jennifer Johnston’, in Éire-Ireland, X, 3 (Autumn 1975), pp.131-41.
  • Mark Mortimer, ‘The World of Jennifer Johnston: A Look at Three Novels’, in The Crane Bag, 4, 1 (1980), pp.88-94 [see extract].
  • Shari Benstock, ‘The Masculine World of Jennifer Johnston’, in Thomas F. Staley, ed., Twentieth Century-Women Novelists (London: Macmillan 1982), pp.191-217.
  • Michael Kenneally, ‘Q & A with Jennifer Johnston’, in Irish Literary Supplement, 3, 2 (Fall 1984), pp.25-27.
  • Bridget O’Toole, ‘Three Writers of the Big House, Elizabeth Bowen, Molly Keane, and Jennifer Johnston’, in Gerald Dawe & Edna Longley, eds., Across the Roaring Hill, The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985), pp.124-38.
  • David Burleigh, ‘Dead and Gone: The Fiction of Jennifer Johnston & Julia O’Faolain’, in Masaru Sekine, ed., Irish Writers and Society at Large[Irish Literary Studies 22] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1985), pp.1-15.
  • Seamus Deane, ‘Jennifer Johnston’, in Ireland Today, 1015 (February 1985), pp.4-6.
  • David Burleigh, ‘“Dead and Gone”, Fiction of Jennifer Johnston and Julia O’Faolain’, in Masaru Sekine, ed., Irish Writers and Society at Large [Irish Literary Studies No.22] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1985), pp.1-15.
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘“A Little Bit of Ivory, Two Inches Wide”’: The Small World of Jennifer Johnston’s Fiction’, in Études Irlandaises, 10 (Dec. 1985), pp.129-44.
  • Joseph Connelly, ‘Legend and Lyric as Structure in the Selected Fiction of Jennifer Johnston’, in Éire-Ireland, 21, 3 (1986), pp.119-24.
  • Heinz Kosok, ‘The Novels of Jennifer Johnston’, in Maria Diedrich & Christoph Schoneich, eds., Studien zur englischen und amerikanischen Prosa nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg: Festschrift fur Kurt Otten zum 60. Geburtstag (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1986), pp.98-111.
  • Joseph Connolly, ‘Legend and Lyric in the Selected Fiction of Jennifer Johston’, in Eire-Ireland, 21, 3 (1986), c.p.122.
  • Heinz Kosok, ‘Novels of Jennifer Johnston’, Studien zür englischen und amerikanischen Prose nach den Erslen Weltkrieg. Festschrift für Kurt Offen, ed., Maria Diedrich & Christoph Schoneich (Darmstadt 1986), pp.98-111.
  • Derek Mahon, ‘Indian Summer’, review of Fool’s Sanctuary in The Irish Times (1987), [q.d.], rep. in Mahon, Journalism 1970-1995 (Dublin: Gallery 1996), pp.102-04 [see extract].
  • James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel: A Critical History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), pp.291-33.
  • Heather E. Dermott, Study of the Big House Novel [Keane, Bowen, J. G. Farrell, Johnston] (MA Thesis, Univ. of Ulster, 1989), 84pp.
  • José Lanters, ‘Jennifer Johnston’s Divided Ireland’, in The Clash of Ireland, Literary Contrasts and Connections, C. C. Barfoot & Theo D’Haen (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1989), pp.209-22.
  • Ann Owens Weekes, Irish Women Writers: An Uncharted Tradition (Kentucky UP 1990), p.212 [see extract].
  • Rüdiger Imhof, review of Invisible Worm, in Linen Hall Review (April 1990), p.28 [see extract].
  • Jürgen Kamm, ‘Jennifer Johnston’, in Rüdiger Imhof, ed., Contemporary Irish Novelists (Tübingen: Gunter Narr 1990), pp.125-41 [see extract].
  • Ann Owens Weekes, ‘Jennifer Johnston: The Imaginative Crucible’, in Irish Women Writers: An Uncharted Tradition (Kentucky UP 1990), 191-211.
  • Mark Mortimer, ‘Jennifer Johnston and the Big House’, in Jacqueline Genet, ed., The Big House in Ireland (Dingle: Brandon; NY: Barnes & Noble 1991), pp.209-215.
  • Janet Egleson Dunleavy and Rachel Lynch, ‘Contemporary Irish Women Novelists’, in James Acheson, ed., The British Novel Since 1960 (NY: St Martin’s 1991), [q.p.].
  • Eileen Kearney, ‘Current Voices in the Irish Theatre: New Dramatic Voices’, in Colby Quarterly, 27, 4 (Dec. 1991), pp.225-32.
  • David Stevens, ‘Religious Ireland (II)’, in Edna Longley, ed., Culture in Ireland, Diversity or Division [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1991), p.145 [see extract].
  • Christine St. Peter, ‘Jennifer Johnston’s Irish Troubles: A Materialist Feminist Reading’, in Toni O’Brien & David Cairns, eds., Gender in Irish Writing (Open University 1991), cp.123-24.
  • Klaus Lubbers, ‘“This White Elephant of a Place”, Jennifer Johnston’s Use of the Big House’, in Otto Rauchbauer, ed., Ancestral Voices: The Big House in Irish Literature: A Collection of Interpretations (Dublin: Lilliput 1992), 307pp. [with cover by Edith Somerville].
  • Keith Jeffrey, ‘Irish Culture and the Great War’, in Bullán (Autumn 1994), p.94 [see extract].
  • Penny Perrick, ‘Now you see him ...’, review of The Illusionist, in Sunday Times, Books (7 Dec. 1995), [see extract].
  • Eileen Battersby, review of The Illusionist in Irish Times (16 Sept. 1995), Weekend, p. 8.
  • Danny Morrison, review of Three for the Price of One in Fortnight (April 1996), p.40.
  • Vera Kreilkamp, The Anglo-Irish Novel and the Big House (Syracuse UP; Eurospan 1999).
  • Ruth Frehner, The Colonizer’s Daughters: Gender in the Anglo-Irish Big House Novel (Tubingen: Franacke 1999), 256pp.
  • James M. Cahalan, Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction (Syracuse: Syracuse UP 1999), 234pp.
  • Eileen Battersby, review of The Gingerbread Woman, in The Irish Times (25 Sept. 2000) [see extract].
  • C. L. Dallat, review of The Gingerbread Woman (2000), in Times Literary Supplement (10 Nov. 2000) [see extract].
  • Richard York, ‘Jennifer Johnston: Tremors of Memory’, in Irish Fiction since the 1960s: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Elmer Kennedy-Andrews (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2002) [Chap. 12].
  • Felicity Rosslyn, ‘“The Nonsense About Our Irishness”: Jennifer Johnston’, in Essays and Studies: Annual 2004 (Boydell & Brewer 2004), [q.pp.].
  • Linden Peach, The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2004), espec. Chap. 3 : ‘Secret Hauntings’ [on Fool’s Sanctuary, and works by other writers].
  • Paddy Woodworth, ‘Invisible Characters of the Heart’ [interview], in Irish Times (23 Feb. 1991), ‘Weekend’, p.5.
  • Eve Patten, review of Jennifer Johnston, This is Not a Novel (Headline Review), in The Irish Times ( 19 Oct. 2005 ), Weekend, p.10 [see extract].
  • Heather Ingman, ‘Nation and Gender in Jennifer Johnston: A Kristevan Reading’, Irish University Review: a Journal of Irish Studies, 35, 2 (Autumn/Winter Sept. 2005), c.p.342-46.
  • Paddy Smyth, ‘Riveting truth in a “non-memoir”’, in The Irish Times (31 Oct. 2009), Weekend, p.10 [see extract].
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  • Karen McManus, ‘Prodding Republicanism’, [interview] Fortnight (April 1995), pp.36-37 [see extract].
  • Rosa González, interview with Jennifer Johnston, in Jacqueline Hurtley, Ireland in Writing: Interviews with Writers and Academics (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi 1998), pp.5-6.
  • Richard York, ‘“A Daft Way to Earn a Living”: Jennifer Johnston and the Writer’s Art: An Interview’, in Writing Ulster [‘Northern Narratives’, special issue, ed. Bill Lazenblatt], 6 (1999), pp.29-47, ill., photo-port. by Leon McAuley; see extract].
  • Eileen Battersby, ‘Making Sense of Life’, interview with Jennifer Johnston, in The Irish Times, Weekend (30 Sept. 2000) [see extract].
  • Gail Walker, ‘Interview with Jennifer Johnston’, in Belfast Telegraph (24 Oct. 2002).
  • Eileen Battersby, Interview with Jennifer Johnson, in The Irish Times (19 March 2005), [Weekend], p.7 [see extract].
  • Interview by Caitríona Moloney, in Irish Women Writers Speak Out: Voices from the Field, by Moloney & Helen Thompson (Syracuse UP 2003), pp.65-74.

Books Ireland: Sue Leonard reviews This is Not a Novel, in Books Ireland (Dec. 2002), p.312 and Grace and Truth, in Books Ireland (April 2005), pp.94-95, while Rory Brennan likewise reviews Grace and Truth in Books Ireland (April 1996), p.79.


Undated reviews: Arminta Wallace, review of Two Moons (1998) in Irish Times [q.d. 1998; see extract]; Rhond[a] Richman Kenneally , reviewing The Invisible Worm (NY: Carroll & Graf 1993) [US ed.] in Irish Literary Supplement [q.d.; see extract]

General criticism
  • Ann Owen Weekes, ‘Figuring the Mother in Contemporary Irish Fiction’, in Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories, ed. Liam Harte & Michael Parker (London: Macmillan 2000).
  • Christine St. Peter, Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (London: Macmillan 2000).
  • Kirkpatrick, Kathyrn, Border Crossings: Irish Women Writers and National Identities (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 2000).
  • Rüdiger Imhof, The Modern Irish Novel: Irish Novelists after 1945 (Dublin: Wolfhound 2002).
  • Linden Peach, The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings (Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan 2003).
  • Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, Fiction and the Northern Ireland Troubles since 1969: Deconstructing the North (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2003).
  • Roberta White, A Studio of One’s Own: Fictional Women Painters and the Art of Fiction (Rosemount Publ. Corp. 2007).
  • Heather Ingman, Twentieth-century Fiction by Irish Women: Nation and Gender (Aldershot: Ashgate 2007).
  • Robert Goldsmith, ‘The Trouble with Literature’ (MA Dipl. Diss., University of Ulster, 1996) [extract].
  • Aveen McManus, “Narratives of Childhood - A Comparative Study” (UU MA Diss., 2005) [also on Mary Costello, Frances Molloy, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Seamus Deane, Edna O’Brien, Patrick MacCabe].

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See separate file [infra]

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See separate file [infra]

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Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), selects ‘Extract from a Novel’ [The Christmas Tree], with photo-port., pp.72-76.

Seamus Deane, ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3 prints extracts from The Captains and the Kings [1031-36]; 611 [Deane, Celtic Revivals, 1985, big house surrounded by unruly tenantry; culture besieged by barbarity, a refined aristocracy beset by a vulgar middle class are recurrent images in 20th c. Irish fiction drawing heavily on Yeats’s poetry since then; cites works by Bowen, Higgins, Kilroy, Banville, Johnston]; 939 [urbane, lyrical and elegant depiction of Big House disintegration, ed., comm., J. W. Foster], 1434 [Derek Mahon, adaptations. incl. work by Jennifer Johnston]; BIOG, 1134 [error: has lived in Northern Ireland since 1951].

Helena Sheehan, Irish Television Drama, A Society and Its Stories (RTÉ/Mercier 1987), lists TV films, The Bondage Field, dir. John Lynch (1981); The Gates, dir. Tony Barry (1970).

Books in Print (to 1994), Captains and the Kings (London: Hamish Hamilton 1972; Fontana 1982; Penguin 1988, 1990); The Gates (London: Hamish Hamilton 1973; Fontana 1983); How Many Miles to Babylon? (London: Hamish Hamilton 1974; Collins/Fontana 1982); Shadows on Our Skin (London: Hamish Hamilton 1977; Coronet 1979; Penguin 1991); The Old Jest (London: Hamish Hamilton 1979; Penguin 1988); The Christmas Tree (London: Hamish Hamilton 1981; Penguin 1989); The Railway Station Man (London: Hamish Hamilton 1984; Penguin 1989, 1994); Fool’s Sanctuary (London: Hamish Hamilton 1987; Penguin 1988, 1992); The Invisible Worm (London: Sinclair Stevenson 1991; Penguin 1992); The Nightingale Not the Lark, with The Porch and The Invisible Man (Dublin: Raven Arts 1988).

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The Captains and the Kings (1972), dealing with the relationship between the aged Anglo-Irishman Captain Charles Prendergast and a young local Diarmid Toorish, giving rise to groundless suspicions of paedophilia in the community and resulting in ostracism and death. For the source of the title, see Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional” - often known by its refrain “Lest We Forget” - in which stanza 2 reads: ‘The tumult and the shouting dies / The captains and the kings depart / Still stands the ancient sacrifice / An humble and a contrite heart / Lord of Hosts, be with us yet, / Lest we forget - lest we forget’. In stanza 4 falls the now-infamous phrase ‘lesser breeds beneath the law’, and stanza 3 the line ‘all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Ninevah and Tyre’. Note that is reprinted in the section of the Church of Ireland Hymnal entitled called “Our Country” (1960; 1987 edn.) See also Kipling’s hymn to Christ, here p.525.

The Gates (1973), is the story of the orphaned Anglo-Irish girl called Minnie and the discoveries she makes about her family’s past.

How Many Miles to Babylon? (1974), dealing with the relationship between Lieut. Alex Moore, a young Anglo-Irishman, and Jeremy Crowe, a stable-boy turned soldier whom he shoots out of mercy in his cell before execution as a deserter (leave without absence) and is himself court-martialled; the friendship that springs up between the two is opposed by Alex’s mother Alicia, and later by Major Glendinning, who places Moore in charge of the firing-squad. Quotation: ‘Because I am an officer and a gentleman, they have given me my notebooks, pen, ink and paper. So I write and wait. I am committed to no cause, I love no living person.’ (Quoted in Eileen Battersby, reviewing The Illusionist in The Irish Times, 16 Sept 1995, Weekend, p.8.) [Cf. Helen Cuffe in Railway Man who writes ‘in the interests of accuracy’.]

How Many Miles to Babylon (adapted by Alan Stanford), at The Theatre (Helix, DCU, Dublin), 1-25 Nov. 2005 [with schools shows]: ‘[...] set in Wicklow and France in WWI, Alec, heir to he big house, forms a close friendship with Jerry, a village boy who shares his passion for horses. Both enlist in the BritishArmy: Alec goaded by his beautiful, cold mother; Jerry to learn his trade as a soldier for the Irish Nationalist cause. Amid the mud of Flanders their relationship is tested by an ordeal beyond the horror of battle [...] promises to tear the heart strings, and bring to life a crucial and forgotten episode in Irish history.’ [Publicity notice.]

Shadows on Our Skin (1977), concerns Joe Logan, a young boy, a sensitive and artistic youth and son of a Civil-War Republican, now turned alcholic bully, who grows up in Catholic Derry during the Troubles and forms a relationship with his English teacher called Kathleen Doherty, a young woman from a mixed marriage in the South who is engaged to a British soldier stationed in Germany and who is later tarred and feathered. Joe is left at the end of the novel, after Kathleen has departed in a taxi, making tea for his father as before, with only a copy of The Golden Treasury of Verse as a parting gift.

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The Old Jest (1979), set in the Anglo-Irish War, during which Nancy Gulliver, living on and Anglo-Irish estate with her spiteful aunt and her senile grandfather, achieves independence from her class and accord with the new Ireland with promptings from Angus Barry, an Anglo-Irish nationalist. The Old Jest was filmed as The Dawning.

The Christmas Tree (1981), a meditation on creativity centred on gender issues, narrated by the dying Constance Keating (‘non-Odyssey: no plot, no adventures, no love’).

The Railway Station Man (1984): Dublin-born Helen Cuffe has moved to Knappogue in Donegal after her husband, a maths teacher at a Derry Grammar School, has been accidentally shot by terrorists when visiting the home of boy, Cranston, whose father is in the RUC. Having felt trapped in their marriage, she is marginally relieved by his sudden death. After living in isolation in a cottage by the sea, she falls in love with Roger Hawthorne, an Englishman who has come to Donegal to restore a disused railway station, and sees both him and her grown-up son Jack - who is now involved with the Official IRA - die in a car crash with a lorry carrying munitions to hide in his station goods shed unbeknownst to him. Meanwhile Damian Sweeney, who works for Hawthorne as a joiner and is locally suspected of Provo involvement, grows into real friendship with Helen, while Roger Hawthorne becomes her lover. Jack arrives in the last scene and discovers his mother with Roger. His initial reaction of disgust is tempered by understanding and he rushes off to call Roger back, triggering the road accident that sparks the fatal explosion. His Dublin accomplice, Manus Dempsey - who has consistently revealed himself as a boor, an ideologue and a philistine - runs off into the hills and is never traced. The novel is prefaced and concludes with first-person chapters written by Helen, whose interior monologue at several points reveals the processes of a painter who discovers artistic inspiration in middle-age. The chronology of her life and marriage in the novel (but not the deaths recounted) bears some relation to the experience of the author with whom she shares a birth-date, a marriage date and approximately the date of the termination of her marriage. Minor characters such as Mary Heron and Mrs Sullivan embody the stereotypes of the spirited Church of Ireland parishioner and the Catholic house-cleaner. Music, in the shape of a wind-up gramophone with a set of 1940s albums forms a link between Helen and Roger and some elements of the art philosophy of Paul Cézanne and the paintings of Paul Henry supply a pictorial motif throughout. The novel is somewhat marred by errors in chronology, traces of fist-person narrative in passages given over to a third person narrator, and occasional phrasal lapses such as ‘blinding [sic] commitment”, while Helen’s husband Dan Cuffe morphs into ‘Don’ [Cuffe] at one point. [BS]

Fool’s Sanctuary (1987), narrated by the aged Miranda on her death-bed, it tells of the fateful week-end during the War of Independence when Cathal, her childhood friend, is doomed to execution by the IRA when he betrays a plot to murder her brother and another officer returning from the Front to an Anglo-Irish country house.

The Invisible Worm (1991), concerns Laura Quinlan’s unlikely friendship with a spoiled priest, Dominic - across the religious and class divide in Ireland - and the exorcism of the trauma of her childhood sexual abuse committed by her father, Senator O’Meara, and the tragic death of her mother, an Anglo-Irish Protestant whose knowledge of the facts has led to her suicide in a supposed boat accident.

The Illusionist (1995): Stella Glover, a writer and a mother, describes the hold that her Martyn, the ‘illusionist’ of the title and her domineering and deceiving husband, has over her. Stella believes him to be a professional magician and allows him to dictate everything to her. Eventually she begins to write as a means of release, on the prompting of an old friend. After his death by means of a bomb set on his van - sending the pigeons on aboard sky-high - it materialises that he is not simply a magician but a gun-dealer and a double-dealer who was eventually murdered up by his IRA clients. After his death Stella finds that her daughter Robin has been much closer to him than her while Stella lives on as a writer, supported by government compensation for her husband’s death. (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Irish Writers” - as infra.)

Two Moons (1998), a novel of three generations dealing with family bonds and ageing in which Mimi and her daughter Grace, living in a house overlooking Dublin Bay, reassess their lives in the course of an unexpected visit from Polly and her striking [Italian] boyfriend; Grace contemplating her future, and Mimi the disappointments and betrayals of the past; features an angel.

Quotations - [Narrator:] ‘I have been writing novels for the last fifteen years or so, with varying degrees of success’; ‘It is strange the pieces of your life that float up to the surface of your mind, like the remnants of some ancient shipwreck’; ‘I had loved the illusions, but not the illusionist [her dead husband Martyn]’. Laura: ‘I am not sure in which tense I live, the present or the past. Both seem irreconcilably intermingled in my mind.’ (Cited in Kenneally, supra).

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This Is Not a Novel (2002): Imogen has been sent to a nursing-home at eighteen, and now writes the story of her young life for her brother Johnny who apparently drowned about that time. Johnny is a swimmer and is involved in a relationship with Bruno Schlegel, a German teacher at his school who accompanies him home for holidays. Edward his father is the brother of uncle Harry who died in the war and whose homosexuality at Rugby College is revealed through diaries in the novel. Edward’s diary traces his sense of having failed his children and is read into the novel by Imogen, as narrator. She also reads the diaries of Edward’s mother who comes to know that her husband Patrick encouraged the boy to go to the Front after the school expelled him to avoid ‘scandal’. The climactic events of the novel turn upon the evening when Imogen finds Bruno and her mother - called Sylvia passim - in bed. Sylvia ultimately dies - as we learn in a final ‘letter’ from Imogen to Johnny (whom she believes to be still living somewhere have swum away without trace from the family summer home in Cork called Paradise) - in a car driven too fast in Bray by one of her young men. With this letter the novel ends, characterising the once-timid and troubled Imogen as a ‘successful’ woman barely whose hair is untouched with greyness. The family live at Landsdowne Rd., Dublin (where the Johnston’s actually lived). The characters, especially the grandparents living at the time of the First World War and the Easter Rising, are curiously divided or, rather, equable, in their loyalties to the English Crown and General Collins (p.99.) A resident of the basement and a close family support is Matilde, herself a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps turned Catholic and a sentimental touchstone for the novel. (‘Matilde is always right’. p.182.)

Grace and Truth (2005): Sally, an actress, returns to Goatstown from tour to find her husband Charlie is leaving her on account of her psychological problems; turns in her distress to her grandfather, a remote and frosty Church of Ireland bishop and, pressing him, she gradually learns of his sense of wasted life through his open letter - a letter dealing chiefly with her dead mother Moth, and the grandmother who lies behind the family tragedy.

Truth or Fiction (2009): Caroline Wallace has waited ten years for her lover to propose to her and when he finally does she is sent to Dublin by her editor to interview a faded literary star called Desmond Fitzmaurice who promises to tell her a tale full of sex and violence. What ensues is an unpacking of his marital and extra-marital history - very like that of the author’s father Denis Johnston with - and, climactically, his murder of a German officer in Italy after the surrender in 1945 - (surely not true of the supposed model for the character).

Edinburgh Festival (Sept. 1998); The Festival was attended by Johnston, with other Irish writers incl. Bernard MacLaverty, Joan Lingard, Owen Dudley Edwards, Victoria Glendenning and Ardal O’Hanlon. Hayden Murphy reports that Johnston calls Edwards ‘an old cod’. (Irish Times, 12 Sept. 1998).

The Captains and the Kings? - cf. Brendan Behan’s parody of “Lest We Forget”: ‘In our dreams we see old Harrow / And hear the crow’s loud caw, / At the flower show our big marrow /Takes the prize from Evelyn Waugh. / Cups of tea and some dry sherry, / Vintage cars, these simple things, / So let’s drink up and be merry / Oh, the Captains and the Kings.’ (The Hostage; Monsieur’s song quoted in Benedict Kiely, ‘A Memory of Brendan Behan’, in A Raid into Dark Corners, Cork UP 1999, p.175.)

Rosaleen Linehan: Dermot Bolger recounts the time when he attended ‘a one-act play by the great Jennifer Johnston’: ‘It was lunchtime, a meagre house, a bare set with just one chair. The superb actor Rosaleen Linehan entered and commenced her monologue. But after 90 seconds she did something incredibly brave. She said to the audience: “Excuse me; I got off on the wrong note. I think I’ll start again.” She quietly walked off stage, came back on and mesmerised us for the next hour.’ (Bolger, ‘A novel idea: why it was time for a rewrite’, in The Irish Times, 18 Sept. 2010, Weekend Review, p.8.)

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Martin/Martyn: The deceptive and deceiving husband Martyn in The Illusionist (1995) whose magic tricks seems to include arms-dealing with the IRA and who is eventually killed in a car-bomb - presumably set by the IRA - shares phonetically in the first name of the reputed Commander in Chief of the Northern IRA, Martin McGuinness. It is a similarity which spurs one to consider whether the novel is not in some sense allegorical - and in that manner a response to the violence of the IRA campaign. If so, it positions the deceived wife as the deceived nation who have been led into violence contrary to their instinct for peace, civility and imagination.

Handshake: On June 17th 2012, Martyn McGuinness shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II of England, then celebrating her jubilee on the throne, in his capacity as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The carefully-staged encounter took place at the new Lyric Theatre, Belfast, and was said to be carried off perfectly by the actors on both sides. Given McGuinness’s nationalist-republican opposition to the English crown and the fact that the organisation he commanded was responsible for the death of Lord Mountbatten - the Queen’s much-loved cousin, who introduced her to the Duke of Edinburgh - when his boat was destroyed by a bomb in Co. Sligo in 1979. Covering the event, the columnist Gail Walker wrote: ‘In some ways it was only appropriate the handshake should take place in a theatre. [...] like all drama, it brought with it a fusion of spectacle and emotion, finally producing a sense of catharsis. [...] As a peice of theatre the handshake of Elizabeth the Second [and] former IRA chief of Staff and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness was a jaw-dropping triumph. [...] he two major leads played their parts to perfection and never fluffed a line.’ Also present were Peter Robinson and his wife Iris, with Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina. (See Belfast Telegraph, 28 June 2012, p.2.)

The public handshake was prefaced by another at an initial meeting in a side-room where he greeted the Queen and the President of Ireland with ‘Tá failte romhat’. (See Liam Clarke, ‘A sign of peace indeed, but not without an agenda’, in Belfast Telegraph, 28 June 2012, p.7.)

Guardian report: ‘In a speech in Westminster [... ] he [McGuinness] said the handshake “was in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity”. “It is an offer I hope many will accept in the same spirit it was offered,” he said.’ (See Roy Greenslade, ‘Martin McGuinness: Queen’s handshake was an “offer of friendship to unionists” [...]‘, in The Guardian, 28 June 2012.). McGuinness went on to characterised David Cameron’s ‘lack of engagement’ in the reconciliation process as ‘a serious mistake’.] (Guardian online - accessed 12.07.2012.)

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Brook Hall: Brook Hall, Culmore Rd., Co. Derry [BT48], was built as the seat of the Hill Baronetcy, a family from Buckinghamshire and, later Coleraine, which descended from Samuel Hill, Cromwell’s Treasurer for Ireland who was granted land in Counties Armagh, Tyrone, Antrim and Londonderry and served as a burgess of Londonderry. A younger son Jonathan was an army major during the siege of Londonderry. in 1694, a Samuel Hill married Mary, dg. of Hugh Rowley of Culmore and in 1772 Sir Hugh Hill (1st Baronet) married Mrs Hannah Spence, the widow of Robert Spence of Strabane. In 1788 Sir George Fitzgerald Hill (2nd Baronet) married Jane Beresford, niece of the 1st Marquess of Waterford, while George Fitzgerald Hill, subsequently 3rd Baronet, married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of John Rea of St Columb’s, in 1831. In 1689 the house was headquarters for the army of King James and occupied by the Duke of Berwick. The original house was replaced in 1780, and a Regency balcony was added on the Foyle side in 1816. The house was purchased by Samuel Gilliland in 1852 and remains in the possession of the Gilliland family. A celebrated Arboretum was started there by Commander Frank Gilliland in 1932. David Gilliland inherited the estate at his death in 1957. [Various websites.]