Review: TIME PRESENT, TIME PAST, by Deirdre Madden
Time Present and Time Past, by Deirdre Madden. Published 2014 by Europa Editions.
Fintan Buckley is a middle-aged, middle class man, with a wife of 24 years and three children- two teen-aged boys and a 7 year old girl, Lucy, the apple of his eye. They are Irish and live in Howth, an upscale seaside suburb of Dublin. His mother Joan lives nearby, as does his sister Martina. The time is just before the financial crash of 2008. Fintan enjoys history and finds himself fascinated by autochrome photography, an early form of color photography that had its heyday between 1907 and the early 1930s when it was replaced by subtractive color film. Fintan's interest in autochrome photography leads him to have certain hallucinatory experiences, taking him, and the narrative, in and out of his present life in ways that he never expects.
At the same time the life of his family goes on around him. He and his wife, Colette, manage their family as their sons grow up and their little girl explores her world; Fintan, who had thought he was finished having children, has found himself quite besotted with his youngest and enjoys being a father to her more than he ever thought he would. Colette gets to know his sister Martina, a beautiful woman with an eye for clothes and a good business sense but a slightly shady past. Martina is just returned from time spent living in London but won't tell anyone why she's come back. Now Martina's opened a boutique, and seems to be settling in, but questions remain. Joan is a fashionable lady with firm ideas about family but she harbors her own secrets as well. The family must deal with its past just as the future is about to launch itself onto their lives.
I had not heard of Deirdre Madden when I picked up this book but it just looked like my kind of thing, and I have to say I really loved it. Madden is an excellent writer with a keen eye for detail and psychology and Time Present is solid, strong literary fiction that will appeal to lots of readers. I want domestic and family fiction readers to read this, and litfic readers generally. I know I want to read everything she's written now- I feel like I made a real discovery when I found this book sitting out in a bookshop in suburban Dublin, not far from the actual setting. And I was thrilled to see Europa publishing it and bringing it here, because I think lots of readers will love it and feel about Deirdre Madden the way I do- that she's one to follow.
It's my fourth book for the 2014 Europa Challenge.