Christopher Nolan The Banyan Tree: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781611457575

The Banyan Tree: A Novel

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9781611457575: The Banyan Tree: A Novel
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Covering the eighty-plus years of the life of Minnie O'Brien, who is bound to take her place alongside James Joyce's Molly Bloom, The Banyan Tree is a rich saga of rural Ireland in the twentieth century. In distinctly layered prose that has been compared to that of Joyce, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas, Nolan lovingly details the life and times, the triumphs and tragedies, of this spirited woman, who struggles to keep her body and soul, as well as her modest hopes, alive.

Married in 1922 to Peter O'Brien, a good and decent man who nonetheless harbors a terrible secret, Minnie bears him three children: Brendan, who joins the Church, rises to become a bishop, and is quietly drinking himself to death in New York; Sheila, who marries above herself to a wealthy but nasty Dublin businessman (her marriage, Minnie muses, is "a funeral set to music"); and Francis, the youngest, who leaves home at age seventeen to wander the world in search of fame or fortune—hopefully both. It is for him—Minnie's favorite, the prodigal son—that she jealously struggles to keep the five fields willed her by her husband from the clutches of her ambitious and unscrupulous neighbor Jude Fortune. For, she is sure, one day soon Frankie will put an end to his wanderlust and come home to claim what is rightfully his.

Ostensibly bucolic, The Banyan Tree—feisty and colorful, filled with humor and love—also demonstrates forcibly that the gentle world of Minnie's youth is gone forever.

 

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Winner of the 1987 Whitbread Award for Under the Eye of the Clock, Christopher Nolan has now fashioned an extraordinary epic set in rural Ireland. The Banyan Tree spans three generations of O'Briens, who own a small dairy farm in Westmeath. For years, alas, the family has seen its ranks diminish. Minnie O'Brien's husband is long dead and her three children scattered in a typical Irish diaspora--Brendan is a priest in Africa, Sheila a nurse in London, and Frankie an Australian sheepshearer and oddjobber around the globe. In the meantime, Minnie stubbornly clings to her life, her five fields, and her memories, which take root like a banyan tree and feed her lonely old age.

In many ways, The Banyan Tree is a conventional tale of births and deaths, weddings and funerals, all set against the land and the lure of emigration. What makes it unusual is Nolan's flexible, fickle, and often fantastical language. Not only does he use colloquialisms to locate the characters very specifically, but he brings verbs, nouns, and adjectives to sparkling life by allowing them to change places at will. The butter churn is a "druidic dark drum" that comes "Sundaying into life." On the day after Minnie's wedding, the "morning songed the reading of the streets." Even a description of a sleeping baby erupts into Joycean music:

Breathing soundlessly, the baby slept as though he had been there since the house was built. Waves of tenderness winked from her immaculate eyes as she facted where her baby but slept away his drabness.... His minutes were building into hours and his plumbed hours were nearing that transom hour, that bragging hour, when he might bubble burst just to hymn his daylong lifetime.
Nolan's alliterations and galloping hyphenation evoke not only Joyce but the whimsical beauty of Gerard Manley Hopkins. And like Hopkins, he can sometimes overindulge his penchant for verbal shenanigans. But while the author's circumlocutions may clog the narrative from time to time, The Banyan Tree nonetheless works up to a moving climax, and offers a surfeit of linguistic riches along the way. --Cherry Smyth

From the Back Cover:

“Richly–even baroquely–told.... Nolan writes with verve.”–The New York Times Book Review

“Nolan’s soaring language and lilting, alliterative style suffuse...the book with a sense of the miraculous.”–The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A work of genius. Everything in this charming story simmers with life.... Unflaggingly engaging.”–The Christian Science Monitor

“Nolan...makes the ordinary extraordinary. In his hands, a simple tale of a countrywoman’s steadfast strength becomes an elegiac, enthralling epic; funny, poignant, and as earthy as the Irish sod it’s set on.”–BookPage

“Nolan is a stunning writer.”–The New York Review of Books

“Nolan manages to make a familiar story of rooted parents and rootless children seem sparklingly original.”–The Sunday Times (London)

“Nolan’s memorable narrative is a brilliantly observed marvel of atmosphere and humanity, as sophisticated as it is simple and ripe with rich, earthy, inventive language. Few novels will beguile as much.”–Image Magazine

“Told with considerable warmth.... A novel like this one...is to be valued for its celebration of the way in which the imagination changes things.”–The Irish Times

“Nolan . . . mesmerizes us from the opening passage . . . his descriptive prowess reminds one of Joyce as he takes this simple family story and breathes into it clarity and understanding.” –The Boston Globe

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Book Description Skyhorse Publishing, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Covering the eighty-plus years of the life of Minnie O Brien, who is bound to take her place alongside James Joyce s Molly Bloom, The Banyan Tree is a rich saga of rural Ireland in the twentieth century. In distinctly layered prose that has been compared to that of Joyce, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas, Nolan lovingly details the life and times, the triumphs and tragedies, of this spirited woman, who struggles to keep her body and soul, as well as her modest hopes, alive. Married in 1922 to Peter O Brien, a good and decent man who nonetheless harbors a terrible secret, Minnie bears him three children: Brendan, who joins the Church, rises to become a bishop, and is quietly drinking himself to death in New York; Sheila, who marries above herself to a wealthy but nasty Dublin businessman (her marriage, Minnie muses, is a funeral set to music ); and Francis, the youngest, who leaves home at age seventeen to wander the world in search of fame or fortune--hopefully both. It is for him--Minnie s favorite, the prodigal son--that she jealously struggles to keep the five fields willed her by her husband from the clutches of her ambitious and unscrupulous neighbor Jude Fortune. For, she is sure, one day soon Frankie will put an end to his wanderlust and come home to claim what is rightfully his. Ostensibly bucolic, The Banyan Tree--feisty and colorful, filled with humor and love--also demonstrates forcibly that the gentle world of Minnie s youth is gone forever. Seller Inventory # AAC9781611457575

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