Jennifer Johnston won the Whitbread Prize for "The Old Jest"; the Evening Standard Best First Novel Award for "The Captains and the Kings" and "How Many Miles to Babylon?"; and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for "Shadows on our Skin".
Jennifer Johnston is one of the foremost Irish writers of her, or any, generation. She has won the Whitbread Prize (THE OLD JEST), the Evening Standard Best First Novel Award (for THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS), the Yorkshire Post Award, Best Book of the Year (twice, for THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS and HOW MANY MILES TO BABYLON?). She was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize with SHADOWS ON OUR SKIN.
As she lies dying, Miranda Martin relives the events of a traumatic weekend in her 18th year. At the close of World War I, her brother Andrew, a British army officer, returns to the Irish estate where Miranda and her father live. Here Andrew confronts Miranda's lover, Cathal, a university student and IRA member. The orders Cathal receives from his organization make him realize too late that abstract ideals can translate into bloodshed. The complexity of the characters' relationships and the emotional tension of the narrative are heightened by the book's brevity. Readers not only observe the complexity of Irish political loyalties and conflicts, they experience the futility of wasted lives and shattered dreams. Kathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Termon by the Irish sea is the great house in which Miranda and her detached father believe they and those they love will always be sheltered. The time is post-World War I, and for 18-year-old Miranda the idyll is shattered irreparably when her lover, Cathal, a working-class university student who is a member of the IRA, and her brother, Andrew, a cynical British Army officer, meet at Termon. The inevitable sacrifice of Cathal to save Andrew from an IRA set-up is foreshadowed in achingly terse dialogue. The violent act that leaves Miranda forever bereft is recalled in the opening scenes, when, on her deathbed, she remembers herself as a woman who has ``known the embraces of no man.'' In elegant, evanescent prose Johnston (How Many Miles to Babylon and Shadows on Our Skin) enters the private agony of those destined to experience the stark romanticism and tragedy of the Irish. (January 20)
One of our most impressive novelists * Sunday Express * An immaculate artist: understated, unshowy, a careful and economical craftswoman of language and all the loose, unwieldy stuff of emotion * Scotsman * One of Ireland's finest writers * Sunday Tribune * Uncliched, wondrously (and deftly) evocative of time and place, and remarkably moving * Kirkus Reviews *