“When one is deprived – the daily bread we pray for – then everything becomes distorted. The ravenous beast that’s in you will not let you be” – Langrishe, Go Down
Langrishe, Go Down is Aidan Higgins’s first novel. It follows the lives of members of the Langrishe family who possessed an estate in County Kildare in Ireland. The house and land has fallen to ruin at the time the story takes place. Set in the 1930s, the three surviving Langrishe sisters, Helen, Lily and Imogen, are middle-aged, unhappy, poor and alone.
However, Imogen, the youngest Langrishe who was considered by many as the wildest sister, had a heated love affair with one of the tenants a few years prior to the time in which the story is being told. She fell in love with Otto Beck, a scholar four years her junior who is by no means a likeable character. The implication is that Imogen, desperate from the frustration engendered by a stagnant way of life amid the remnants of a house that was once great, becomes infatuated with Otto because she is bored and miserable.
Langrishe, Go Down is beautifully written and expertly recounts the disintegration of a lavish way of life among the Irish landed gentry. However, I felt that the story focussed excessively on the Imogen/Otto relationship when more could have been written about the other Langrishe sisters.
I read much of Langrishe, Go Down on a 48 hour trip to the German port city of Hamburg. As well as devouring decadent hamburgers (not a cliché if locals are doing it too) and drinking numerous steins of weissbier, indulging in glühwein at the Christmas market and wandering the infamous Reeperbahn, I searched desperately for a drink called Club-Mate I had had in Berlin months before and miraculously came across it in a night shop. Unfortunately it wasn’t the cola-flavoured version, but the ice tea Club-Mate I got was tasty with a splash of gin and a slice of lemon.