Langrishe, Go down by Aidan Higgins

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I don’t read enough Irish lit over the years of this blog I have want to read a little as it is where I was born and my family have a history tied back to the 1600’s in Ireland. So when I saw the sad news of Aidan Higgins passing a few weeks ago, I decide it was time to read his debut novel which was considered his best book (I often feel this is a hard cross to carry as a writer when that first book is so praised and lauded it is always hard to hit a second home run. Higgins had written many books and after this I will be trying him again. Sorry it took his death for me to finally try him .

Cattle-Jobber; the man in the gap. A life given to bullocks ad heifers, stringers. Bone and gristle. Stewing fat, Helen Langrishe looked away. The heavy wheel ran on. She cleared the glass once more with the heel of her glove and stared out through the port-hole at the countryside now coming into sight on the left hand.

The conductor, worn leather satchel hanging down, was talking to another passenger, his hand outstretched for a fare. she regretted not answering him. The way it was at Springfield, they had got out of the way of exchanging common civilities.

Helen the sister on the bus back from Town at the start of the book with how bleak their lives are .

Langrische, Go down is the story that is very common in Irish history in the 20th century and that is the fall of a landed family. This is captured the family in what may be its last generation The three  langrische sister live in the decay ruin of the once proud home.We see after the opening chapter and the plight of the family when Helen returns and passes on the dire straits of the sisters lives. The main part of the story focus on the youngest sister Imogen and the one chance she gets to maybe carry on the family but also escape the world. This comes when the sister open their lives  to a German Student who is staying in one of the estates cottages.  The young sister falls for this Man with his views on the purity of Irish women. This is the story of two worlds meeting the dying British empire of old Anglo-Irish families like this one , the rise of Facism in Europe through Otto. Otto is a man who uses Imogen really for me I was reminded of some of Maugham’s characters in Otto the way he treated Imogen. He is a darker character than he first seems.

-Irishwomen, said Otto with fervour, they are so pure and clean.

-So cold?

-So pure, Otto said, and that’s not to be found any more in Germany– that great purity. But here you have it. And also that look in the face, the eyes, and one knows that such women are not corrupted. One knows it(thumping himself on the breast) Here

-Ireland is still rearing them still, Imogen said widening her eyes at him.

-A man might sometimes have filthy thoughts about girls. That’s natural enough. But when I meet Irish girls and can recognise at once their essential purity, then I am touched, incapable of a base thought.

Otto with Imogen she is still a virgin at 39 when she meets Otto is he the one?

This is one of those books where a lot doesn’t happen the beauty is in the way the prose draw you into the world of the sisters the decaying house what Higgins captures is the world that world of de Valera Ireland, which in some ways is the final nail in the sisters coffin so to speak the change of the world around them and them not able to catch up to the world. This isn’t a book for those who want a story. This is the story of broken grandeur the whole world of  Langrische sisters is dusty, ill or just about to fall apart. These are like characters in Paul Scott’s novel staying on or the spinster sisters in Agatha Christie’s  Nemesis The Bradbury-scott’s both of whom like the Langrishe have fallen out of step with the world around them.A richly written book by a writer that maybe should be better known. Have you read him ?

Irish Literature

Source – Library book

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Séamus Duggan
    Jan 13, 2016 @ 17:38:41

    Loved this when I read it many years ago and hope to read it again soon. I also have a couple of other books by Higgins. I agree with you that even on the basis of this one book he should be better known.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 10:02:01

    I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of this writer! What were those folk at 1001 Books thinking of when they omitted his name?!

    Reply

  3. 1streading
    Jan 17, 2016 @ 14:20:55

    Had a horrible feeling reading your review he was going to be entirely out of print but I see Dalkey Archive have reprinted a couple of his books. At least that suggests he’s not completely forgotten.

    Reply

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