Matters of Life and Death by Bernard MacLaverty - review by Miranda France

Miranda France

One Up For Ireland

Matters of Life and Death


Jonathan Cape 240pp £14.99

If you did not already know that Bernard MacLaverty was Irish you might guess it, from the way aunts and uncles keep popping into his stories.

There is Aunt Nora, taking her two young charges to a museum and fearful that they may be exposed to something immoral. On the bus she thinks of mentioning that swans mate for life – but would that be unsuitable? Immorality also troubles Aunt Annie, the nineteenth-century owner of a small guest house, and guardian of a niece whose beauty catches the eye of their lodger. Her sister smiles on this romance, but Annie quivers with disgust.

MacLaverty wonderfully displays this aunt’s habit of disapproval in a few lines that at first appear to be about a merely sartorial matter.

Annie always wore a gold cross pinned horizontally to the dark material at her throat. If she wore it the right way up the top irritated the underside

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