Ruth Finnegan Called a Feminist James Joyce: Reviews and Book Signings!

“JOIN OUR QUEST!” the Daunt Books announcement states, inviting readers to the bookstore on Hampstead Heath, in London, on May 26th.

Where: Daunt Books, Hampstead, London, 51 South End Road London
When: Thursday, May 26, 2016, 6:30 PM — 8:30 PM BST

“Join extraordinary anthropologist and author Ruth Finnegan on an eternal quest for love and self-discovery through heaven, earth and hades,” the announcement states.

Joyce specialists have been invited to the reading and so the Finnegan-Joyce connections are bound to be a topic of conversation.

Sadly, fans of Ruth Finnegan and Black Inked Pearl in the U.S. will not be able to attend the Daunt Books event, but it is possible for us to consider the possibilities. Here in the U.S. Foreword Reviews has published a review, which makes the connection between Finnegan and Joyce.

At Garn Press we have never doubted the Ruth Finnegan is on par with A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble – with whom, incidentally, she was in school – but her writing is more like James Joyce than these two great writers, and is in some ways totally original and incomparable.

Forward Reviews – Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest, by Ruth Finnegan

Here is the Foreword Review:

Fans of classical verse and fiction will appreciate the rich allusions, universal themes, and linguistic creativity of Black Inked Pearl.

If James Joyce’s dream-like opuses were written from a more feminist perspective, they might look something like Ruth Finnegan’s Black Inked Pearl, a rapturous fantasia of words and images set somewhere between ancient myth and the green shores of modern Ireland.

Two epigraphs explain the title. “Black Ink,” taken from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, refers to the act of writing itself, of using the pen to stave off mortality and preserve beauty. “Pearl,” taken from a maxim by the thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi, is represented in the poetic sense as a kernel of wisdom, a spiritual treasure to be sought. In this way, Black Inked Pearl is a traditional quest story, though its diction is decidedly nontraditional. The book’s heroine, Kate, finds herself searching for divinity in “the wilderness of love.” She becomes a central character in a reimagining of the Garden of Eden and other biblical and classic narratives.

Because of the book’s experimental stream-of-consciousness style, the plot is often hard to follow. The prose intermittently breaks into long runs of poetry and interpolated quotes and allusions. In this Joycean narrative structure, the language itself must skip, shine, and sparkle to hold interest. Fresh, fun, and kinetic phrasing like “ink-tangle-murmur of the sea” achieves this aesthetic dynamic. Some passages are simply breathtaking: “And so–she waited there. In the dust. For one who did not come. For one who would never come.”

In other places, however, the prose is too hackneyed to sustain the book’s symphonic aspirations: “black was the sky, black the sea, the rocks. Black her heart.” More overwrought constructions, such as “nothingness of nothinged voidedness,” become numbing after a while. If there’s a line between playful language and plodding language, Black Inked Pearl crosses over into plodding territory more than once.

The book’s best moments stay on the playful side of language. This is particularly true of the narrator’s sly, subversive treatment of patriarchal power structures. In a passage relating the protagonist’s religious instruction, for example, the proverbial fall of man is specified as “Male pride that riseth erect in the passion of night, falls to nothing under the star, the lull, the fall of morn.” Unlike Joyce’s heroes, Kate must find self-expression and self-fulfillment among traditions and institutions that historically exclude women. Hers is a fight for equality in the eyes of God. It’s a fight worth following.

Fans of classical verse and fiction will appreciate the rich allusions, universal themes, and linguistic creativity of Black Inked Pearl. Even those who prefer simpler language and more traditional plotlines might find passages worth noting and taking to heart. Finnegan is a talent to watch. (Scott Neuffer, 11 May 2016)

Ruth-finnegan-black-inked-pearl-garn-pressBlack Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest

Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-16-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-17-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-18-6
Paperback: $17.95
Hardcover: $27.95
Ebook: $9.99
Hardcover and Paperback: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
eBook: Apple iBooks, Kobo eBooks





“A highly unusual story filled with literary and biblical illusions and new words.”, Joyce Irene Whalley, Author of The Art of Calligraphy  and A History of Children’s Book Illustration, Previously Keeper, Victoria and Albert Museum London

“Amazing! I enjoyed it tremendously; it’s light, floating, visual – I am back in Donegal of a long time ago – good …” – Dasck Eve Defin, Literature teacher, Birmingham, Author of the historical memoir Indulgence

“It all started to hang together for me and become increasingly clear as a message for me and where I am at the moment – to open myself to new areas of experience, some of which may be painful (I hope not!); the message of the book is that there is a route to be found. I welcome the contact with things beyond my normal frontiers. It has been a valuable experience reading it.”- Jim Graham, School Counsellor, Southampton, England

“The book-poem-narrative is very exciting and touches my heart in many ways — poetic, personal, verbal/creative, emotional …“ – Patrick Bond, Nature poet, Lewes East Sussex

“It’s certainly a big change from Ruth’s earlier books, which I happen to admire very much. I loved the bits where the poetry is so closely linked with her childhood memories.” – Professor Paul Thompson, Oral historian, London

“I’m reading (and enjoying) The Black-Inked Pearl. Echoes of Joyce, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s narrative style in Sunset Song …” – Morag Grant, Scottish music researcher

“I’ve been enjoying the very evocative chapters on Donegal. I like the way it plays with language and the poetic stream of consciousness. and there’s definitely a strong sense of a teenager awakening to adulthood in all sorts of ways!” – Janet Maybin, Schools literacy specialist, The Open University

“A lovely novel. What an extraordinary achievement, to switch from academic writing to this imaginative and exploratory fiction. I saw some of the author’s scholarly preoccupations coming through, notably the role of memory and quotation, and I loved the way Kate’s reflections are so bound up with poetry. The assemblage and juxtaposition of genres struck me as having an effect very much in keeping with African-language prose fiction, where genre boundaries are constantly breached and where long passages of oral poetry might be incorporated into a descriptive or narrative sequence. Very many very warm congratulations on pulling this off. I was fascinated to read about the starting point in a long series of dreams: the novel itself is a dream.”, Professor Karin Barber, Departments of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK

“Different, fresh. I loved the stream of consciousness Joycean style. Trance-like.” – Denise Saul, Poet and fiction writer, Winner of Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice 2007, London

“Thoroughly enjoyable.” – Yvette Purdy, University Course Manager, Milton Keynes

“Gripping.” – Rachel Backshall, Classics student, University of Oxford


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