The Daily Telegraph
Samuel Beckett once remarked of his dramatic monologue, Not I, that all over Ireland the lanes were full of deranged old women, giving voice to similarly fractured laments.
The darkly inconsequential interior monologue is a form that attracted both Beckett and his mentor, James Joyce, and there are references to the writing of both men in Anakana Schofield’s debut novel, Malarky.
The protagonist of Schofield’s novel, referred to as “Our Woman”, has been widowed for three days when we encounter her and is discussing her recent bereavement with a grief counsellor, to whom she complains of intrusive thoughts.
Asked what form they take, she demurs, but then admits that they are of “naked men. At each other all the time, all day long. I can’t get it out of my head.” The grief counsellor falls momentarily silent, then suggests that Our Woman “scrub the kitchen floor very vigorously and see would a bit of distraction help”. The juxtaposition of sexual obsession and domestic chores proves to be a leitmotif in Schofield’s novel. Though set in the recent past, the rhythms of Our Woman’s life follow the age-old patterns of rural Ireland. Himself, as she calls her husband, goes out to the fields to tend his cows. Our Woman remains indoors, cooking and cleaning.
She notices that things are different in the marriages of her “gang” of middle-aged girlfriends, who like to meet regularly for cake and gossip: “Our Woman observed their lives tied up and in with their husbands in small significant ways that hers lacked”. Yet her sharp-witted and ironical stream of consciousness is combined with an almost wilful passivity – until the day she learns that Himself has been unfaithful.
The discovery, combined with the knowledge that her son is homosexual, drives her to an extremity of self-discovery, both shocking and comic.
Schofield’s portrait of a woman whose personality is beginning to fragment after a lifetime in an emotional vacuum is both blackly comic and deeply felt. There is something heroic about the desperate resilience of Our Woman, and the originality of her depiction by Schofield, that leaves an indelible trace on the reader’s mind.
Review by Jane Schilling click here to read original
Published July 26, 2013