Neil Jordan has written several books but is better known as a screen writer. His most famous movie was "The Crying Game," which caused a sensation when it was released. I found this book difficult to follow as the author uses a stream of consciousness style of writing, which I don't much care for, perhaps because it requires such close attention. That said, "The Past" is beautiful in its lyricism. The characters' thoughts melt into each other, and at times I had to reread passages to understand whose voice was being heard. Each chapter was narrated by a different character whose mind the reader enters. Historical characters are mixed with the fictional, and their thoughts are important to the plot. Since the reader discovers the story through each character's thoughts, one is not always sure where the truth lies.
The story opens with a young man who is visiting a beach resort town in Ireland. There is a mystery surrounding the birth of his mother, and his journey is a discovery into her character and her coming of age. The plot is built around the struggle for Irish independence. The story is mainly about Rene, the daughter of Michael and Una O'Shaughnessy the narrators grandparents, and it turns on a postcard he has found among old papers. The O'Shaughnessys were free state heroes, Michael a soldier and Una an actress, a larger than life diva.
The narrator assembles pieces of his mother's history through visits to Lili her best friend and Fr. Beausang, who knew her as a young woman and budding actress. As the story progresses, truth and fantasy become entwined and what is remembered is not necessarily true. The narrative becomes confusing as the novel moves on and the ending is not altogether satisfying. However, if you enjoy stream of consciousness and poetic writing, you may wish to give this book a try.