A "deeply moving, powerful, and unforgettable book" (Michael Ondaatje), Death and Nightingales is an epic story of love, deception, betrayal and revenge, set on a single day in the Irish countryside in 1883.
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It is 1883 and the farms of County Fermanagh, on the border of Ulster and what we now know as the Republic of Ireland, are crisscrossed with religious, political, and generational tensions. Through the events of a single day in the life of Elizabeth Winters, we see decades of pain, betrayal, and resentment build to a devastating climax.
Against the fearsome beauty of the Fermanagh landscape, the fate of McCabe's heroine, Beth, slowly and suspensefully unfolds. Born to a Catholic mother and an unknown Catholic father, conceived shortly before her mother's marriage to Protestant Billy Winters, Beth has lived a life of silent suffering since her mother's death. Determined to decide her own fate but doomed to repeat the tragic circumstances of her birth, McCabe illuminates her quiet, searing power with the tenderness of a poet, offering up a powerful, lyrical indictment of the tensions that tear families and nations apart.
'A masterpiece. Death and Nightingales is a miracle of a novel which combines prose of bleak, unadorned beauty with a plot which keeps you up all night.'-Colm Toibin
'A deeply moving, powerful, and unforgettable book' - Michael Ondaatje
'Brilliant, richly conceived, and perfectly narrated with the suspense of a good thriller.' -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Originally published in England in 1992, McCabe's powerful, gruffly lyrical novel, released for the first time in America, chronicles the struggles of a spunky, courageous young Irish woman in strife-torn Northern Ireland in the 1880s. Beth Winters enters the world with a strike against her: her mother is Catholic and her father is Protestant. Pregnant at the age of 25, Beth thinks back on the wretched existence of her late mother, Catherine, who was constantly badgered by her violent husband, Billy. Though he could never forgive Catherine for a particularly galling act of betrayal, of which Beth is a constant reminder, Billy conceives a grudging love and admiration for Beth. In moments of weakness, his love takes an unpleasant turn, and Beth is driven toward Liam Ward, a young Catholic who hates Billy for his wealth and power. McCabe, equally adept at scenes of furious action and heated intimacy, never lets the reader forget the Catholic-Protestant violence lying beneath the surface, even in the brutal clashes between father and daughter. Beth herself is acutely aware of the contradictions of her birth and heritage. When she finally steals away after a vicious beating by her father, McCabe cleverly sets up the riveting climax of the book, in which Beth is revealed to be as ruthless as Billy. It is the relationship between father and daughter, charged with a bitterly affectionate love and shared cleverness, that drives this novel, a fine book that rarely blinks at the bitter truths of life, loss and war.