This long-awaited selection of essays and reviews from one of Ireland’s leading critics brings together a wealth of reflection, observation and astute literary comment. It ranges in time from William Carleton to Edna O’Brien, and in subject matter from recent Irish poetry to ghosts, children’s books and MI5.
Patricia Craig has some important points to make, and makes them with cogency and wit. Always readable and entertaining (and sometimes controversial), she is possibly the only female non-academic Northern Irish critic who has consistently, and over a long period, contributed to every leading UK and Irish publication (and a couple in the US).
The book begins with the unpublished and partly autobiographical “Kilclief”, which deals mainly with the literary associations – unexpectedly extensive – of a small but distinctive area of Co Down. Next comes a section on books relating to Ireland, “Red Hands and Dancing Feet”. Here you will find insightful essays on some of the great names in Irish literature (Synge, James Stephens, Brendan Behan), alongside others featuring more recent authors (Elizabeth Bowen, William Trevor, Ciaran Carson). Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s exhilarating Cré na Cille is discussed, and another long piece concerns the music-and-song collector Seamus Ennis.
Part Two, “Pious Girls and Swearing Fathers”, presents views and reviews of books connected (loosely) to women and children, and contains lively pieces on Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Harry Potter and so on. And the third section, “Fiddlesticks!”, rounds up some stray, but superlative, miscellaneous articles on subjects as diverse as the enigmatic MI5 officer Maxwell Knight and Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks.
Kilclief & Other Essays is an altogether memorable collection.