The comfortable, almost bedtime story-like narration of this story makes its violence more devastating. Family life is a site of drama from the start with “a false report that Maggie had died in childbirth” ironically placed on a par with the mother-of-three going out for the day; “the idea that their mother could voluntarily absent herself from their company, for a whole day, had never ever occurred to them.” The tension and the comedy of Frances Molloy’s style is held in an almost unbearable balance as the children are sent out alone by their father, who rewards himself for feeding them with a quiet afternoon. “Wrapped up in their discovery” they go “searching for treasure” amongst the cornfields while we itch to protect them from every danger, never imagining the awfulness that will mean Maggie “didn’t go away again for another fourteen years.”
From Women are the Scourge of the Earth, The White Row Press, 1998
After six years of marriage Maggie decided to have a day out. To be more correct, I should say that after she had been married for six years her mother decided that it was high time Maggie had a day out.
And so Maggie goes off to a nearby town, leaving her husband to look after the three children. The children enjoy the stew their father makes and like his way of serving it straight from the pot to save on doing any dishes. They appreciate too the freedom he gives them to roam. They jump on the corn in a field and find a bottle of crude oil which they mix with water on the ground, marvelling at the myriad colours, the ‘unicorn puke’ as my own kids call it. The father’s response to these activities ensures that Maggie does not go away for another fourteen years. It is said that Frances Molloy worried about being a ‘proper author’, that she wanted to write about ‘big issues’ and events. And yet in a story like this, dealing as it does with rural South Derry, there is beauty and control and violence and pain. There is nothing limited about it at all.
From Women are the Scourge of the Earth, the White Row Press, 1998