The Springs of Affection--Maeve Brennan

Thanks in large part to the recommendations and comments of the great many bloggers in Literary Land, I have come upon some wonderful books to read both this year and last.  Without Mr. Myers, I would have left The Believers on the shelf and have missed a really fine book as a result.  That is only one example among many--another blogger alerted me to Amellie Nothomb, and so forth.  But Maeve Brennan was for me my own discovery.  Ever since I found the very short novel The Visitor on the shelf of the downtown Kissimmee library (from which it subsequently vanished without a trace) I have a been a fan, seeking out Ms. Brennan's work wherever I could find it.  And I have found only one book on the library shelves--The Springs of Affection, from which I have posted numerous times.

Ms. Brennan's art takes the form of chronicling unhappy marriages--deeply unhappy people married to one another and seemingly unable to live without one another, but relentlessly and inexorably unhappy--made so by their own choices and decisions.  The Springs of Affection is made up of three clusters of stories.  The first concern Ms. Brennan's early life in Ranelagh (a "suburb" of Dublin--to which I walked last time I was in the city).  The second concern the marriage of Hubert and Rose Derdon--a completely, almost morbidly unhappy married couple whose unhappiness traces both from history and from a few key incidents quickly limned and highlighted by Ms. Brennan in the stories.  And yet, and yet, as unhappy as they are when one of them is no longer present, the other mourns and pines and claims to neither mourn nor pine.  The third cluster recount another unhappy marriage--unhappy but not desperately, relentlessly so.  Delia and Martin Bagot live in a small house with their two daughters and the constant haunt of their first child who died after only three days with them.  This is a different sort of unhappiness--and the last story of the book "The Springs of Affection" give deep and interesting insight as to why.  Told by Martin's twin sister after his death, "The Springs of Affection" chronicle the rigid and terribly ties that family can have on a person and how those ties shape life for good or ill.

The writing, particularly in these last two groups is superb--truly unmatched in its genre and it makes one regret that Ms. Brennan left us so little.  Had there been more, then she might be better remembered.  And she certainly deserves better than that small fame she presently has.  You would all do yourselves a kindness were you to invest a few hours with one of Ms. Brennan's books of short fiction.  I  intend to revisit "The Springs of Affection" at least once before returning the book to the library--it is a story that stands with the best of Irish writing (and of course, by that I think one could compare it favorably with Dubliners.)

Highly Recommended *****


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