Clar Ni Chonghaile, The Reckoning
by Anita Markoff
This book evokes a mixture of feelings across its pages. It would be easy to say it is a book about love and loss – but that feels too simplistic, and on a base level almost every novel is about both. Very much a war novel, ‘The Reckoning’ attempts to capture the effects of world wars on the everyday lives of normal people – your parents, the girl next door, your landlady.
The emotions of ordinary people, their struggles with despair and numbness but also resilience in the face of war are all exposed in intimate ways. Clar Ni Chonghaile utilises the letter format to tap into a unique self-aware narrative style. Of course, this style has been used before, most famously in ‘Frankenstein’, but this is an interesting modern take on the letter novel which allows Chonghaile’s narrator to both share a raw personal connection with the readers and analyse assumptions made about general fiction and writing. The novel ranges from poignant to cliché, philosophical to YA novel. The writing style may be meant to emphasise the fluctuating feelings felt by a narrator who is reflecting on both the most traumatic experiences humanity has faced and simultaneously the ways in which people manage to still find love, passions, beauty and nostalgia amidst it all.
The underlying message of ‘The Reckoning’ is one of hope. It demonstrates how cyclical life is: we go through a war, and then another one. We love someone, and then they hurt us in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and then we learn to love again. We experience loss, and think the world will stop turning, but it does not. One parent dies, and then another, and we start over again and move into a new house and then a new country. Everything repeats itself in a never-ending circle. And somehow, the narrator has survived every experience and shows us through her memories that we can too.