The Letters of John McGahern by Frank Shovlin (ed) - review by Hugh Haughton

Hugh Haughton

Among the Turnips

The Letters of John McGahern


Faber & Faber 880pp £30

In the case of some novelists, such as Flaubert, Proust, James, Woolf and Kafka, letters are an essential part of their literary output. With others, such as Austen, Dickens and Joyce, they are an invaluable supplement to the published works. With most, however, letters are primarily of documentary rather than literary value. This is true of the correspondence of the great Irish novelist John McGahern, whose letters have been immaculately collected and edited by Frank Shovlin in this welcome volume.

For McGahern aficionados, that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. They provide a unique inside view of the making of a writer who from the outset was a steely, single-minded and fiercely ambitious lyric novelist. Like Kafka, he fought against the legacy of an overpowering father and, like

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RLF - March