I first posted this review in February but as the paperback edition of the book is being launched this week, I thought I would post it again. Eoin Lane is a writer, but also an artist. He travels round Ireland’s coast painting land and seascapes.
This book is the story of an artist’s life, mind, body, and spirit: I found it fascinating, hypnotic, rhythmic, exquisite.
“The rain was in her eyes and she couldn’t see through the rain. She couldn’t see through the fog and the rain in her eyes.”
“A storm of sea voices. Coming through the crack in the wall. On the wind. Voices in the deep. Underwater. Deep. Down. Deep. Strands and fronds of seaweed strangling.”
The artist is Colin Larkin, whose father drowns when he is six years old. Colin nearly drowns too, and this episode is the well-spring of his life. For a long while he is withdrawn and doesn’t speak but eventually, he returns to school, and he begins to draw. For the rest of his life the sea fills his being and his canvases. He has a particular affinity for the works of Paul Henry and longs for islands, for solitude, for the sea and sky.
I enjoyed his early family life with his sister and his two brothers, and his wonderful mother. It wouldn’t be enough to say she was wise and loving – she embodied wisdom and love. For fear of spoilers, I will say no more about the story which explores different types of love and devotion. But I will say that Aisling is the loving heart of his life from the very day meets her:
“Her words swinging in like the first peals of a bell that would ring all around him for years . . . “
When Colin finds an island he loves, and begins to work, we get a wonderful insight into the mind of a painter. We are there with him looking at the immense sky and sea. We experience his complete absorption in putting down what he sees. The prose and the sensitivities of Colin make me feel like I’m half alive and missing out, and I am resolved to look at everything I see, to listen to what I hear, to absorb the reality around me.
There are some snatches of poetry (Yeats) here and there which make me both sad and glad to think of all the beauty in this world, all the words and pictures and music, and the earth itself, particularly Ireland.
Colin describes some of his paintings as ethereal; for me, the whole book is ethereal. To say I give it five stars seems irrelevant, and a bit daft.