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The Bitter Glass by Eilís Dillon
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The Bitter Glass (1958)

by Eilís Dillon

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Set during the Irish Civil War, in 1922, the MacAuley children (the youngest being 16) are traveling to their summer home, about 20 miles from Galway. They are accompanied by Ruth's fiance, and Pat's best friend and Nora's future hopeful fiance, as well as their aunt's babies and their nurse, Sarah. The parents are all arriving in a few days' time, or so everyone thought. As they travel, the IRA has blown up several bridges, including the one to Galway, so they are isolated, and the bombers have shown up on their lawn to camp out and receive treatment for one of their soldiers. As the few days of the novel progress, the babies get sick, and tensions are high because of the illness and the insurgents, as well as the condescending attitude of Ruth's fiance, Colman. Things eventually come to a head, and no one is the same afterward.
I enjoyed this book- characters were polarized, and it was easy to find things about them to like or dislike. Descriptions were lifelike, and the plot moved well. There was enough history for my curiosity to be piqued, and now I'd like to learn more about this time in Ireland's history.
My reading experience was enhanced by Irish music- from traditional and Celtic Woman to Van Morrison, U2, Mumford and Sons, and to pub rockers like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. ( )
  tstan | Sep 4, 2016 |
It took me quite a while to finally get to reeading this book.
Now that I did, I must say that I find this an impressive book.

I learnt quite a bit about Irish history and liked the way the story was written.
It was, subject-like, a bit like other books about a family living through difficult times. What made this one different for me, was the form of writing. Quite matter of fact like, not too emotional, quite from a distance, but in such a way, that the characters seemed the closer.

( )
1 vote BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Eudora Welty said of Eliis Dillon's "The Bitter Glass," "An excellent piece of work to me, full of reality, full of poetry, written with a very sure and sensitive hand, I was completely won over by it." I personally don't see how...I found this book to be pretty awful.

"The Bitter Glass" is the story of a group of young Irish adults who are traveling to the country to for a summer holiday. Their parents are to follow on a later train, but the bridges are blown up by an IRA column so they are left on their own with two sick babies to care for.

I didn't think the characters were very well drawn-- I kept forgetting who was who and wondering why I was supposed to care about them. This is a short novel but it took forever to read... I just found the whole thing rather boring. It didn't provide much insight into "the troubles" or provide a compelling story of a family to follow.

I'm honestly not sure what makes this one of the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die." ( )
1 vote amerynth | Jun 8, 2012 |
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Epigraph
Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The Demons, with their subtle guile
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night recieves,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all things turn to barreness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness
Made when God slept in times of old.
***
They tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass

W.B. Yeats
Dedication
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Galway was like a different world.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Poolbeg Press

An edition of this book was published by Poolbeg Press.

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