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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 26 December 2016

"Castle Rackrent" by Maria Edgeworth

This is a two part story first published in 1800. It is narrated by an old retainer (Thady Quirk, honest Thady or old Thady) of a family of Irish gentry.

The first half relates the history of the family till the present day. Sir Tallyhoo Rackrent died from a hunting accident and left the estate to his 'cousin-german' (we would now say first cousin) Sir Patrick O'Shaughlin on condition that he changed his name (and presumably his religion, O'Shaughlin being a Catholic name). Sir Patrick was a party animal who died after a particularly heavy party; his body was seized for deby which gave his heir (Sir Murtagh Rackrent) the excise to refuse to pay any debts. Sir Murtagh was a lawyer who sued everyone: "Out of forty-nine suits which he had, he never lost one but seventeen" but died while arguing with his wife about an abatement. The estate then passed to his younger brother Sir Kit Stopgap who immediately went to Bath and became an absentee landlord leaving the estate to "middle men" who bought leases cheap and rented them out dear but Sir Kit abroad gambled away all the money until everything was mortgaged. Then Sir Kit appointed Thody's son Jason as agent and married an heiress who was a Jewess and brought her back to Ireland and then locked her up in a room in the castle to extort money from her. Seven years later she was let out after her husband was killed by the third of his adversaries in consecutive duels. And so eventually a new heir arrived, Sir Conolly (Condy) Rackrent.

The second book his Condy's story, still narrated by Thody who becomes even more gossipy and full of Irish idiom than before. Si Condy gets into debt and has to decide whether to marry the neighbouring heiress (against her father's wishes) or his childhood sweetheart. A toss of the coin decides him on the heiress. But the newlywed and rather unhappily wed couple are extravagant and soon the money has all gone and Thody's son Jason the agent starts to persuade Sir Condy to sell a little here and a little there and so starts but by bit to acquire the estate.

Sir Condy's wife at one stage reads 'The sorrows of Werther'.

This is a delightfully written and utterly picaresque family saga written very briefly and with a brilliant ear for the language of the time by one of the most gossipy narrators I have ever read. Great fun and very short.

December 2016, 90 pages

Other books with Castle in the title include:

Irish fiction reviewed in this blog:
  • Strumpet City by James Plunkett: a book about the poor in Dublin in the early 20th Century
  • Teacher Man by Frank McCourt: the sequel to Angela's Ashes: an Irish exile in New York
  • Dubliners by James Joyce: the classic short stories
  • Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgworth: a classic first published in 1800
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle: a boy grows up in Ireland
  • The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan: set in the recession of the early 21st Century

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