WHAT meaning is left in such words as perfect, masterly, moving, excellent, beautiful, significant, vital, when they are used to desciibe
books? When I want to let off my enthusiasm about a book I have just been reading called The Farm by Lough Gur, I feel I can have nothing to say. It merits all the adjectives squandered so recklessly across the advertisements in the Sunday papers and literary weeklies: also it merits being bought. (Longmans have recently issued it in a new edition at six shillings.)
It is about life on an Irish farm in the middle of the nineteenth century when dairy maids tied primroses to their cows' tails on May Eve to keep them safe from fairies, when farm boys arose at half•past four and dared not marry without consulting a matchmaker, when those who could read sat round an oil lamp in the evenings and read Keats and Milton aloud, when the time of the potato famine and of the hearing of Mass in caves and hidden places was in the recent memory of everyone, when strangers greeted each other svith the words: " God be on the road with you." and when Mothers told their children as the priests had told them in the persecution days:-brief sentences in a low voice that enemies might not hear-" Be lust. love mercy. keep the faith. Hold fast to our holy religion. Love God with your whole heart. Love your neighbour as yourself."
It is a book difficult to quote from because its effectiveness lies in the vivid picture it evokes as a whole of a gentle civilised life which was always, however, near the bizarre and the wretched. The daughters of the farm go to a convent in Limerick and learn how to curtsey to Queens; but when they are home they must visit a woman dying on sacking and sewing her own shroud of good linen, and care for the beggars who scratch their sores by the door and for God's Fair Innocents (those we call idiots) who wander harmlessly and helplessly.
Without being in any sense an escapist book-concerned with a romantic unreality it is, I think, about the best escape from the war anyone could devise for six shillings.