Amongst Women is held together by the strands of personal change and family dynamics rather than by any kind of plot as such. It starts in the present — "As he weakened, Moran became afraid of his daughters" — but then goes back to recount episodes spread over the previous decades. The end of Moran's last friendship. Moran's re-marriage to Rose, which only happens through her careful planning. His son Michael's attempts to escape the restrictions of the family. His daughters' successful escape, through education, employment and marriage. And, through all of this, the persistence of the binding ties of love and family, fraught though they be.
The rural Irish setting is also compelling. The very distance of the Morans from village life helps to highlight the power of custom and conformity. The family's work on the farm — Moran also receives a war pension — gives a feel for rural working life. And we get a perspective on the roles of education and emigration in changing Irish society, and on the failure of religion to offer any counter to that, even where it preserves its outward power. All of this is presented in passing, however, and never takes the focus.
There are few things in Amongst Women that aren't completely convincing. A scene where Moran is reminiscing with an old comrade over their feats during the war contains some unlikely dialogue, clearly aimed at the reader. The relationships between Rose and her step-daughters might seem a little too good to be entirely plausible, but make sense in their context.
This is a finely written novel and a moving study in human strength and human frailty.
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