Fiction Time Present and Time Past by Deirdre Madden Omnivore review

Published on July 13th, 2013


Time Present and Time Past by Deirdre Madden

| Press reviews | Buy the book | Have your say |

Blurb: Fintan Buckley is a pleasant, rather conventional and unimaginative man, who works as a legal adviser in an import/export firm in Dublin. He lives in Howth and is married to Colette. They have two sons who are at university, and a small daughter. As he goes about his life, working and spending time with his family, Fintan begins to experience states of altered consciousness and auditory hallucinations, which seem to take him out of a linear experience of time. He becomes interested in how we remember or imagine the past, an interest trigged by becoming aware of early photography, particularly early colour photography. He also finds himself thinking more about his own past, including time spent holidaying in the north of Ireland as a child with his father’s family. Over the years he has become distanced from them, and in the course of the novel this link is re-established and helps to bring him understanding and peace, although in a most unexpected way. (Faber & Faber)

Adam O’Riordan, The Telegraph

The novel takes its title from the “Burnt Norton” section of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets: “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past”. The quote is used as an epigraph, and by the end of the book the reader realises that Madden – cleverly, playfully, with sly wit and real skill – has translated this intellectual and poetic expression of time into a deeply moving portrait of domestic and family life.

Read full review

David Evans, The Financial Times

While this is an investigation into the subjective experience of time it is also, more accessibly, an acute dissection of family life. Tensions in the Buckley household are brought out nicely but there are also calm, blissful scenes: after a roast dinner, “the sun [shines] in on the ruins of chicken, its breastbone picked clean, the teapot, the empty cups, the faces of [the] family”. This writing has a photographic clarity – the prose equivalent of Fintan’s autochromes. Some readers may be put off by the lack of incident; others will relish the novel’s slow, digressive rhythm. I found it exquisitely done.

Read full review

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

“This is a subtle, deeply thoughtful novel, its tone so clear that the writing plays over character and action like water over stones. As in Madden’s Orange prize-shortlisted novel Molly Fox’s Birthday, middle age is a time for transformation as well as reflection. Fintan is, one might say, losing his grip. He cannot believe in the story that the old Ireland has been replaced by an infinitely more promising version … A flaw in the characterisation of Fintan is that there is little sense of the abrasiveness of his career, or that his cast of mind has been formed by legal practice. His sister Martina’s ownership of an exclusive dress shop is more convincing, and organic to the character.”

Read full review

Hannah Rosefield, The Observer

“Madden’s clear, precise prose allows us to share Fintan’s heightened, near-supernatural awareness, as does her trick of alternately drawing back to survey decades and homing in on a single moment. But, hallucinations aside, Fintan is no special case. Time Present and Time Past moves between Fintan, his wife, sister, mother and aunt, showing that for each of them – and by extension, for each of us – the past is as pressing and real as the present.”

Read full review

Adam Lively, The Sunday Times

“With a surprise change of gear, the life of the family in the years after the crash is quickly drawn in, before the narrative focuses on a particular moment in the present — a visit by Fintan and Martina to a long-lost relative across the border in the North — that contains both a moment of the past and promise for the future. It is a quietly ­effective end to a novel that, with only one or two slippages oftone (the revelation of Martina’s unhappy past is uncharacteristically sketchy and melodramatic), suffuses the mundanity of family life with something timeless.”

Read full review

Andrea Mullaney, The Scotsman

“So a thriller, it’s not; yet it’s not at all boring either, because Madden’s precise, cool narrative is as condensed and rich as a stock cube, and there’s always a confidence that she knows exactly what she wants to convey.”

Read full review

Buy the book

Amazon | Foyles | Hive | Waterstones


Share Button

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Back to Top ↑