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The Bodhran Makers


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About the Author

John B. Keane is the author of more than thirty best-selling books and some of Ireland's most perennially popular plays, including The Field, Sive, Sharon's Grave, Many Young Men of Twenty and Big Maggie. He lives in Listowel, Co. Kerry.


Set in the 1950s, Keane's sly, funny, heart-rending novel focuses on the struggle of the poor rural community of Dirrabeg, Ireland, to keep its traditional way of life against the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church. Canon Tett, the parish priest, mounts a campaign against the ancient holiday of Wren Day, celebrated by Wrenboys marching over the countryside playing music led by the Bodhran (a drum), and collecting donations to finance the wrendance. A party involving music, dancing, and drinking, the wrendance is the only entertainment all year for most Dirrabeg residents, but to Canon Tett it is wicked and sinful. Keane, an Irish writer whose play The Field was made into a movie in 1991, writes lyrically of a vanished way of life, presenting appealing characters whose only solution to the unrelenting poverty and church harassment is emigration to England. This special treat for lovers of traditional Irish music is recommended for most collections.-- Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio

Furious, raging, passionate and ... very, very funny.

-- Boston Globe

At once a rueful elegy to a vanished spirit and a comic celebration. For those who wear the green, this book will provide a bounty of tears and laughs.

-- Publishers Weekly

Set in the impoverished rural Ireland of the 1950s, this novel, a bestseller there, is at once a rueful elegy to a vanished spirit and a comic celebration of an enduring theme in that country's letters-the indomitable Irishry. Keane, who wrote the play The Field (upon which a recent film was based), tells the tale of the village of Dirrabeg and the perennial battle between a handful of families who celebrate the pagan festivals and the Catholic Church, which in a pique threatens to excommunicate all who participate in the January Wrendance. The bodhran of the title (pronounced bow-RAWN) refers to the traditional Irish drum. Its sound--that strange mixture of life and antiquity--comes to represent the gaiety and poetry of a life lived for fun rather than in fear. Keane pits the charming Wren dance celebrants Donal Hallapy, Monty Whelan, Rubawrd Ring and others against the cruel, conniving Canon Tett, the parish priest. As in Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning play Dancing at Lughnasa, the unrestrained spirit triumphs over the repressive forces of organized religion, only to succumb to inexorable economic realities. There is abundant humor here-the revenge upon the wife and daughter of a church sympathizer is delicious; but perhaps the book's lasting achievement is its finely detailed portrait of rural poverty in Ireland. For those who wear the green, this book will provide a bounty of laughs and tears. (Oct.)

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