The Pear Is Ripe confirmed John Montague’s reputation as a dazzling prose writer and memoirist. The book is full of warm anecdotes and wry observations on the numerous figures from the literary, artistic and musical worlds that John Montague encountered, befriended – and occasionally provoked. Montague recounts his personal and professional relationships with such luminaries as Patrick Kavanagh, Allen Ginsberg and, as co-founder of Claddagh Records, composer Seán Ó Riada, and there is a fascinating account of a meeting with Charles Haughey – which may have led ultimately to the introduction of the artist’s tax exemption.
This memoir covers a period of great international social change. The book recounts the time Montague spent teaching at the University of California Berkeley as the flower-power movement burgeoned in opposition to the continuing war in Vietnam, and his departure from the US to France, where he witnessed the évènements of May 1968 at first hand. Montague saw it all, and commented on it with his customary sympathy, wit and wry humour.
While much of the book covers the writer’s public and literary life, it also addresses the strain that living apart from his wife Madeleine placed on their marriage – which would ultimately lead to the break-up of the relationship. In the moving epilogue, the author recounts visiting young men with AIDS in a New York hospital, and of a final meeting with an ailing Samuel Beckett in Paris. In short, The Pear Is Ripe is a shimmering piece of writing, and one of the finest autobiographical works by an Irish writer.