Chapter Eight - The Completed Circle: That They May Face the Rising Sun (2002) 279
Chapter Eight The Completed Circle: That They May Face the Rising Sun (2002) McGahern’s last novel surprised many of his readers. Eamonn Hughes, for example, thought it ‘in many ways an inexplicable novel’ because ‘it seems to break with, rather than emerge from, any trajectory or pattern’ coming out of the earlier work.1 Yet McGahern could only have written That They May Face the Rising Sun when he did because it was the evolving nature of the creative-memorial process that produced the earlier fiction that led to the solar vision at its core, a vision he records in his memoir and that bided its time until the long eclipse of the first five novels had completed its cycle. The spiritual and emotional well-spring of That They May Face the Rising Sun is the spirit of Susan McGahern, and at an appropriately cardinal moment in the narrative – Easter morning – her voice is actu- ally heard. McGahern began his career as a novelist trying to imagine her death; he ended it with two works that celebrate her memory and spirit, and paradoxically, his last novel is a paean to the very cycle of life that is the focus of his animus in the early work. ‘Of all the books I’ve written, it was the most dif ficult’, he told one interviewer; ‘It was fifteen hundred pages long at one stage’.2 The creative struggle, the original length, and the many continuities with the preceding works suggest this last novel is something of a...
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