Return to Silence and Beyond

Speculative Narrative in Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes (1997) and John Banville’s Birchwood (1973)
  • Linden Peach


Grace Notes and Birchwood represent different poles in contemporary speculative fiction. The former, a version of the exile narrative, concerns a young composer and unmarried mother, suffering from clinical depression, who returns to Northern Ireland from Scotland on her father’s death. The latter is more of a modernist, surrealist work that appropriates the Big House narrative and is set in Ireland around the time of the Great Famine. In a different context, each has at its centre the relationship between an adult and their parents. But, although Grace Notes, despite its to-and-fro movement between different periods in the central protagonist’s life, is a more traditional novel than the highly allusive Birchwood, they are both speculative narratives concerned, in their different ways, with the return of what has been secret or suppressed. But what separates the engagement with what Freud labelled Nachträglichkeit, introduced in Chapter 3, in these texts from the novels discussed previously, is their emphasis upon exploring the possibility of transcendence.


Birch Wood Corporeal Identity Unmarried Mother Female Orgasm Sewing Machine 
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© Linden Peach 2004

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  • Linden Peach

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