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House of Splendid Isolation

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The tone of Edna O’Brien’s latest novel, House of Splendid Isolation, starts out quietly enough, but it quickly becomes disquieting. In a large, ghost-filled house, a solitary old lady and an IRA renegade coexist and finally bond — just before it’s too late. As O’Brien moves comfortably between scenes of pastoral calm and menacing tension — all on the same spot of lush Irish countryside — a number of stories unfold. There is the terrorist on the run, the illicit love affair with a priest, the police cracking a case, the country caught in a civil war. As all the elements converge together into the inevitable tragic climax, O’Brien’s haunting lyrical style maintains its dignity. This is a book with little blood, but a lot of violence lurking just beneath the surface. A-