Time Present and Time Past - Deirdre Madden

Genre: Fiction/Irish
Synopsis: Fintan Buckley is a pleasant, rather conventional and unimaginative man, who works as a legal adviser in an import/export firm in Dublin. He lives in Howth and is married to Colette. They have two sons who are at university, and a small daughter. As he goes about his life, working and spending time with his family, Fintan begins to experience states of altered consciousness and auditory hallucinations, which seem to take him out of a linear experience of time. He becomes interested in how we remember or imagine the past, an interest trigged by becoming aware of early photography, particularly early colour photography. Time Present and Time Past, Deirdre Madden's eighth novel for adults, is about time: about how not just daily life and one's own, or one's family's past, intersect with each other.


Review: I'm afraid I may not have given enough time to this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I feel like if I read it again it may even go up to a four star rating. I read it pretty quickly, easy to read as it was, and it's possible I didn't fully absorb it.

There's no real point to this novel, I don't think, beyond an examination of the broader timeline of one's life, past and present, and how the former influences the latter and ultimately, the future. Fintan considers his past, his memories, and how, when revisited, things are not necessarily as we remember them. He also ponders the future, what will become of his children. Essentially, it's one guy feeling a little troubled by the idea of the 'bigger picture', something that seems a little like a mid-life crisis. There's no questions posed about this idea and no answers offered, is it merely stepping outside the box of 'here and now', a contemplation of where a small group of people have come from and where they will end up.

The characters are diverse and well-written, believable and typically Irish. It is entirely focused on the relationships between members of an extended family, and set in Ireland just before the economic boom. This 'present', this specific snapshot of typical, day-to-day Irish life is beautifully portrayed, gentle, interesting to read despite being largely unremarkable. I suppose the best way to describe this is a meditation on the concepts of family, memory and time, as experienced through the eyes of one ordinary man. This is the first book I have read by Madden, and I definitely want to read more - though I think I'll take my time with the next one.

Rating: 3/5

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