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Redemption Falls - Joseph O' Connor

"No minister was available, or none was willing to come, so the Governor read from the book of Job while Vinson and Calhoun bowed heads in a replication of mourning. Hailstones smacked the black text as he read, blurring the ancient entreaties to sog."

Blurred to sog. Now it would be easy to write 'the pages got wet from hailstones' but that, thankfully, is not Joseph O' Connor's style. Redemption Falls is the tenuous follow up to O' Connors brilliant novel Star of the Sea. Set eighteen years after the ship of same name docked in America from Ireland. I say tenuous because I believe that apart from some detail toward the end, this book is accessible to any reader.

The story is set in the 1860's reconstruction period after the American Civil War. Redemption Falls is a frontier town in the Northern Territory of America. A place whose residents refer to The city of Washington as "back in The States". Lincolns victorious government have yet to exercise any real hold over the west of the continent, which is awash with every kind of renegade, deserter, freed slave, prospector, and friendly/ not so friendly tribes of native Americans.

Con O' Keefe, is one of literatures hard bastards. A hero of the Irish Republican movement, he made his way to America via a stop off in Tasmania (AKA Van Diemans Land) at her Majesties Pleasure, and is the Governor of the territory and head honcho in RF. His position is a dangerous one as even though the war is over tensions run high between the Governor whose rank was awarded to him to for fighting on the Union side, against the breakaway gangs of disbanded Confederate soldiers who have headed West to lick their wounds and regroup.

When I read reviews of RF it seemed to polarise opinions in people. Many rated it highly as an original story originally told but many others found it hard to follow because of its different narrative styles. I pitch my tent in the former of the two camps of opinion. O' Connor tells the story of O' Keefe through journal entries, first person narratives in different vernaculars, poetry, songs, letters, and transcribed interviews with people who knew O'Keefe during his time in Redemption Falls. Apart from O'Keefe this is the story of a destitute woman who despite being starving and destitute manages to walk from New Orleans to the borders of Canada in search of a member of her family (whose descriptions of the war torn towns she passes through give the reader an idea of the real victims of conflict) and it is also the tale of a mysterious mute drummer boy cut adrift from his Confederate comrades.

"Vinson unholstered his Colt repeater. The weapon was new, not long arrived to him from St. Louis, raveled in oilcloth like the shinbone of a saint"

That could be a line out of a novel by the great Cormac McCarthy, and this is the first book I have read which comes close to his descriptive genius. Anybody who can cast an image in the mind of a reader comparing the sculptured statued leg of some poor martyr nailed to cross with the barrel of a gun is a writer at the top of his game. Late Doors put me on to the work of Joseph O' Connor and I thank him for the heads up. This a great work of fiction encompassing history, violence, romance, and originality which is there for any reader to enjoy. I shall leave it to the the words of Peter Tierney, a miner and resident of Redemption Falls to sum up the Badlands that are the backdrop of the novel:

"Bible tell you the meek inherit the earth. In paradise maybe. Not in the West. Cause I'll draw you a line call the hundredth parallel, and left of that, brother, the meek inherit shit."

Consider this review acknowleged.

Sounds vast. I like vast.

Odd that you mentioned McCarthy, the first pasage you posted instantly made me think of his style.  I'll have to have a lok at this after I'm done with Canada - Richard Ford

Cutsyke wrote:
Sounds vast. I like vast.

Very vast Cuts, as is the other one of his I have read called 'Star of the Sea'. He skips through era's, people, and situations with the ease of a child skipping through puddles. Good stuff all round.
Late Doors

Well butter my Battenberg and slap my saucepan I've just found out that the brilliant Mr O'Connor and close cropped crooner Sinead are brother and sister .

Late Doors wrote:
Well butter my Battenberg and slap my saucepan I've just found out that the brilliant Mr O'Connor and close cropped crooner Sinead are brother and sister .

I'm not buttering anyone's Battenberg. Fuckin' pervert! It used to be that dogs were not safe round your way now it seems cakes have their chastity at risk.

Never knew he was her brother. Well done on the fact finding. When it comes to scoops, nothing Compares 2 U.

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