Brian Moore at 100
Lies of Silence was the January read for the Brian Moore at 100 year long read along hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, which I introduced and will link my reviews back to here. A political thriller, it was originally published in 1990 to much acclaim and shortlisted for the Booker Prize, losing to A.S. Byatt’s excellent novel Possession.
It is the story of a disenchanted man, a man who reluctantly returned to Northern Ireland from London with his wife Moira, who was keen to return. Now he is the manager of a hotel, a job he doesn’t particularly like, having left his poetry aspirations far behind him, following in the footsteps of his father, a man he feels resentment towards.
Unsurprisingly, his personal life has become entangled and just as the unspoken issues simmering below this relationship are about to boil over, he and his wife are taken hostage in their own home, he to be used as a pawn in what unfolds as a complex, thought out plan.
In the midst of the initial drama Michael sees his neighbour, a retired bank manager leave with his dog for a walk, seeing in him the average, everyman and woman who just wants to get on with life without interference from “men in woolen masks”.
Watching him go off with his dog, Dillon felt anger rise within him, anger at the lies which had made this, his and Mr Harbinger’s birthplace, sick with a terrible illness of bigotry and injustice, lies told over the years to poor Protestant working people about the Catholics, lies told to poor Catholic working people about the Protestants, lies from parliaments and pulpits, lies at rallies and funeral orations, and, above all, the lies of silence from those in Westminster who did not want to face the injustice of Ulster’s status quo. Angry, he stared across the room at the most dangerous victims of these lies, his youthful, ignorant, murderous, captors.
Under threat, as he moves towards doing what has been asked of him, he faces an excruciating moral dilemma, and a situation that spirals him into further confusion and deliberations over what the “right thing to do” is.
It’s something of a page turner, while not holding back on expressing the tensions and opinions of various characters in this complex, often not well understood political environment.
The Freedom of Self-Imposed Exile
There are also subtle hints to Moore’s own yearning for places beyond the hills of home, as seen in this passage, as he gets off the telephone from his American boss:
Dismissed from Keogh’s busy, money-breathing world, Dillon stood looking out at the mountain which reared up like a stage backdrop behind the city. Long ago, in school, daydreaming, he would look out of the classroom window and imagine himself in some aeroplane being lifted over that grey pig’s back of mountain to places far from here, to London, New York, Paris, great cities he had seen in films and photographs, cities far away from the dull constrictions of home.
It’s also clear that Moore was as keen on seeking revenge with his pen, as much as his characters do with whatever is at their disposal, his distance from the home country giving him a freedom and inclination to provoke, inform and stir the troubled pot, so to speak. In particular, the denouement.
You can read recent reviews here: Cathy at 746 Books, Ali at HeavenAli, Lizzy’s Literary Life, Kim at Reading Matters
February’s novel was Moore’s 1957 novel The Feast of Lupercal, whose pragonist is a 37 year-old teacher at a Catholic boarding school run by priests in Belfast during the 1950s. I don’t have this one, though it sounds excellent according to these enticing reviews, which you can read here: Cathy at 746 Books, HeavenAli.
In March, they will be reading Fergus (1970).
I will join in the reading in:
April with The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955)
May with The Doctor’s Wife.
I hope more of you might be able to join in this next one, which is one of his more well-known and popular titles.
So glad you enjoyed this one Claire, I think you make a great point about Moore getting revenge with his pen – he made no pretense of how much he disliked life in Northern Ireland once he’d moved away.
Well, I’ve just ordered The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne from the library – it’s almost the only book by him they have in the system, which is fortuitous. I would have read Lies of Silence, but …
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Yay, does that mean you may read it before April, or does it take some time to arrive? Regardless, you will be joining a few others who will be reading this title in 2021. 🙂
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I loved Judith Hearne when I read it a couple of years ago, so I shall be very interested to see your review! As for The Lies of Silence, it sounds terrific – gripping, compelling and psychologically astute (that insight into character is also very much present in JH). It’s interesting to read your comments about Moore potentially seeking revenge with his pen. I guess his physical separation from Northern Ireland also allowed him to take a more objective (or emotionally detached?) view of the situation alongside the sense of freedom and security you mention in your review.
I’ve not read this for years, but I did read it more than once. It’s typical of Moore’s skill to write such a morally complex thriller.
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This sounds fabulous. I’ve only read The Lonely Passion by Moore but was bowled over by its portrayal of his main character. You’re in for a treat in April
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I’m looking forward to it and a few others I’ve managed to locate to join in the year long Readalong.
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