Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist is the newest biography on the great Irish writer which delves into McGahern’s life before 1963.
Denis Sampson is the author of this book, he has previously studied and published on McGahern.
He writes on McGahern’s development as a writer and the reasons behind his aesthetic approach.
The writer speaks of the influence of Frank Mannion, McGahern’s English teacher at the Presentation Brothers secondary school in Carrick-on-Shannon, who “was committed to introducing his students to the pleasures of reading and to teaching the recognition of those qualities that make for good and weak writing”.
According to the book, McGahern used literature as a means of dealing with events and traumas that he could not articulate in other ways. He wrote in the essay Playing With Words: “Through words I could experience my own life with more reality than ordinary living.”
A chapter devoted to McGahern’s first, unpublished novel, The End or the Beginning of Love, is where people will find the most revealing insights.
The painful opening scene, where a young boy discusses religion with his dying mother, will be familiar to anyone who has read The Leavetaking or Memoir .
Loyal readers of John McGahern will undoubtedly find much of interest in this new study by someone who has made a major contribution to explicating the work of one of Ireland’s foremost writers of the 20th century.
As this focuses on the earlier part of McGahern’s writing career, the effect of his home life in Leitrim does form part of the biography.