The reason I'm posting now is that I just had to share the great preface in my edition (a 1964 Knopf hardcover I bookmooched). She discusses writing the book, and she just seems so graceful and classy. I'd like to share some of her thoughts on writing. While I'm not a writer, these seemed full of insight.
One may perceive that, generally, in the novel the characters are held in the same orbit by some sort of situation which sets, as it were, a trap-some central device, devilmen, search or passion. My own solution, however, was a more childish one: again in The Last September, as in The Hotel, I used the device of grouping my men and women actually under the same roof, and of keeping them thus located, whether by choice or chance, for such time as the story should need to run its course. The Italian resort hotel of my first venture was, for the second, replaced by the Irish country house. I recognise that I am, and was bound to be, a writer intensely subject to scence and time: both do more than figure, they play their parts in my plots. The approaching close of the visitors' winter season adds edge to the little drama of The Hotel. The Last September, even more, takes its pitch from that lovely, too mortal month which gives the novel its name.
The writer is like the swimmer caught by an undertow; he is borne by it back to those scenes of his own life most steeped in subjective experience which he did not know of. Sensation accumulates where it is least sought; meaning flows in, retrospectively, where we were blind to any. One is captured by the mysterious, the imperious hauntedness of a pariod not understood in its own time.
I was very much struck by her observations on being young. I turned twenty-one in April, and I feel as if she put her finger on where I am right now. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one!
In "real" life, my early girhood in the County Cork, in the house which is the "Danielstown" of the story was, though accented from time to time by aspiration, passing romance or pleasure, mainly a period of impatience, frivolity, lassitude or boredome. I endlessly asked myself what I should be, and when? The young (who are, ironically, so much envied) do all, I suspect, face those patches of barren worry.
When one is young, years are longer; each one one has lived seems dynamic and fraught with a conquest. In most lives (and mine conformed to the shape) the years between twnety and twenty-eight are often important, decisive ones.