This sympathetic study is the first full biography of Athlone-born writer John Broderick (1927-89) whose powerful Balzacian novels of life in the Irish midlands, from The Pilgrimage (1961) to An Apology for Roses (1973) and The Trials of Father Dillingham (1975) evoke the satiric spirit of Brinsley MacNamara. They depict Irish sexuality and Catholicism in a series of pungent tableaux and portraits drawn from vivid but entrapped lives. His own bourgeois roots (his father was a prosperous baker), solitary childhood (compounded by boarding-school), enveloping mother, homosexuality and alcoholism fuelled his fictions, which were in turn enlarged by his love of France and its literature, especially Mauriac and Julien Green. Self-exiled to Bath in England with his housekeeper during the 1970s, he became an embittered if astringent commentator on rapidly shifting Irish mores, retaining his contacts with Ireland through criticism and travel writing.
A neglected but powerful writer, his work complemented that of his colleague and rival Edna O'Brien and held up a mirror to an Ireland of the mid-twentieth century like no other novelist of his day This work shows us that he is an artist of increasing relevance and interest, now celebrated in annual John Broderick Weekends first instituted by the Athlone Rotary Club in 1999. Two of his novels, The Pilgrimage and The Waking of Willie Ryan, are being reissued by The Lilliput Press in tandem with this book, introducing a new generation of readers to this skilled scourge of Irish society, for whom life was 'Something in the head, and almost never in the body'.