The book is full of warm anecdotes and wry observations on the numerous literary, artistic and musical characters John Montague encountered, befriended and occasionally provoked. He recounts his personal and professional relationships with such luminaries as Patrick Kavanagh, Allen Ginsberg and, as co-founder of Claddagh Records, with composer Seán Ó Riada. There is an interesting account of meeting Charles Haughey and a suggestion that a seed was sown that might have led ultimately to the introduction of the artist tax exemption.
The Pear is Ripe covers a period of great social change and upheaval internationally and, in particular, the north of Ireland. Montague's proximity to these changes, by accident or design, was to influence his work and lends this memoir an immediacy that belies the intervening years. 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 their break-up.
While the book principally spans the period from the mid-sixties to the late seventies, Montague has included a powerful and moving epilogue featuring more recent events. He writes of visiting young men with AIDS in a New York hospital, and of a final meeting with an ailing Samuel Beckett in Paris. Poetry Ireland director Joe Woods has spoken of the dearth of memoir by poets that may help to inform their work and its enjoyment.
John Montague's book and its earlier companion Company: A Chosen Life hopefully will set a trend for some of the other workers in song to follow suit. In short, The Pear Is Ripe is a startling testimony from an engaging writer at the peak of his powers.