Archives for Irish writers

#Bookreview ‘When All Is Said’ by Anne Griffin @AnneGriffin_ #Irish

This book stayed with me a long time after I finished it. Three words sum up When All is Said by Anne Griffin. Masterful. Emotional. Funny. It is the story of Maurice Hannigan as he sits at a bar one evening. He drinks a toast to five people and tells the story of his life. It is one of those Irish novels which makes your emotions tingle and say ‘yes, it is like that’, which makes tears prick your eyes and laughter rise in your chest. This is Griffin’s debut novel but she is an accomplished prizewinning writer who knows how to tell a story. It is unbearingly touching and will, without fail, make you cry. Maurice is in the bar of the Rainsford House Hotel in Rainsford, Co Meath, Ireland. At the beginning we don’t know why he is there, the first few pages are an introduction to Maurice, how he feels his age, as he conducts an imaginary conversation with his son Kevin who lives in America. His first drink is a bottle of stout and as he drinks, he tells the story of his brother Tony and their childhood. A key incident in this section has reverberations
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

From the first sentence I was entranced. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne starts with such an opening sentence, full of conflict, hypocrisy, resentment and hope, it made me want to gobble up the pages and not put the book down. I wasn’t disappointed. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the life story of one man, Cyril Avery, but also of a country and its attitudes to sexuality. The story starts in Goleen, Ireland, in 1945; a country riven by loyalty to, and hatred of, the British, at the same time in thrall to its Catholic priests whose rules were hypocritical, illogical and cruel. Cyril narrates his story, starting with how his 16-year old mother was denounced in church by the family priest for being single and pregnant. She was thrown out of church and village by the priest and disowned by her family. On the train to Dublin she meets a teenager, Sean, also heading for the big city. Wanting to help someone so obviously alone, Sean offers to let Catherine stay at his digs until she finds lodging and a job. These first friends she make are some of the most important in her life, and re-appear at
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Himself

I loved this book from the first page. It defies pigeonholing: at once a literary crime thriller, a fond comic tale of an Irish village, an investigation of long-buried secrets of murder and illegitimacy. Jess Kidd is a refreshing new voice, I don’t remember enjoying a debut novel this much since Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites though the two books are completely different. In 1976 Mahony walks into the village of Mulderrig, seeking the truth of his birth twenty-six years earlier. From the forest around the village, and the houses within it, the dead walk out to greet him. They are a silent cast throughout the book, do they hold the answer to the mystery? Kidd has created a village which feels alive, filled by a cast of characters so clearly drawn, and which swirls between the horrific beating of a nurse, downright nastiness, belly laughs and hallucinogenic drugs. The cast includes a pinched, controlling priest; a wizened old actress who organizes the village play from her wheelchair; a bogeyman who reputedly lives in the forest; and a pub landlord who tries to court the Widow Farelly, a nurse who has the sourest disposition visible to everyone except him. Mahony grew
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Somewhere Inside of Happy

Yet again, Irish author Anna McPartlin tackles difficult issues. Grief – as in the superb The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – dementia and homophobia. And there is laughter and tears. It is a thoughtful book with strongly drawn characters, Irish humour and a fair amount of ripe language. It is the story of Maisie Bean, a single mother who has fought bravely to escape a violent husband and raise her two children, Jeremy and Valerie. The story starts, on January 1, 1995, when Jeremy disappears. Ever since his mother found the strength to leave her abusive husband, Jeremy has been the man of the family. He has been responsible, thoughtful, helpful, caring for his grandmother Bridie who suffers from dementia, keeping an eye on his younger sister Valerie. In doing so he has repressed who he is because he doesn’t really understand who he is, all he knows is that he is different. Somewhere Inside of Happy is an examination of generalisations, assumptions and misunderstandings, how the crowd dynamic and a troublesome media can turn a whisper into fact. How a community looks the other way whilst a drug-addict father neglects his son and how gays are referred to
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Categories: Book Love.

My ‘Porridge & Cream’ read: Shelley Weiner

Today I am pleased to welcome novelist, Shelley Weiner who will share her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read. “Tiring of a well-worn book is like outgrowing a friendship, or a fashion statement, or a taste for cheap confectionary – depressing but, sadly, a fact of life. We change, our tastes change, the priorities that seemed so immutable ten years ago can alter or become irrelevant And so, having scoured my bookshelves to find a ‘Porridge & Cream’ read, I had to conclude that the old faithfuls by the authors I chose (sorry Carol Shields, apologies Jane Smiley …) no longer moved me. I might have darted back to Dickens, to Austen, to Tolstoy, for classics of that calibre are beyond fatigue. Instead I consoled myself with a movie – the excellent screen adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn – and a large tub of popcorn. And as I sat in the darkness imbibing salty kernels and Irish angst, I recalled the spare beauty of Tóibín’s prose and resolved to return to the novel. Which I did. And – relief upon relief – it’s as I remembered it; as simple and quiet and engrossing as when I devoured it on publication eight years ago.
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: The Betrayal

This book by Laura Elliot didn’t really get going for me until the last few chapters, which I didn’t expect when it is billed as a ‘gripping novel of psychological suspense’. A case I think of a publisher trying to catch the coat tails of The Girl on the Train. I would describe it more as a family drama. That aside, this is a well-written study of a teenage relationship which, when it falters and is left to fester into adulthood, can mess up a whole family. This is an examination of the marriage breakdown between two empty-nesters, Jake and Nadine, who are then messed around by Karin, the ex-friend from hell. Yes, there is a stalker. Yes, there are accidents and co-incidences. There are some colourful sections to Jake and Nadine’s viewpoints which I enjoyed reading – the band Shard, Alaska, the container village – but these seemed like diversions when I spent a long time waiting to find out what the actual betrayal was. Perhaps an insight into Karen’s mind would have helped to balance Jake and Nadine’s story. A small aside, sadly I had another issue: for a traditionally-published book, my Kindle version was littered with grammatical errors.
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Colm Tóibín

Colm Toibin “I didn’t write a great deal that I erased but I did think of a great deal that I put aside because everything had to, in some way or other, have a drama in it. I began to trust [the novel], so I felt that if I put enough detail in this, especially in the opening chapters, that I will build up a relationship between her and the reader where the reader will become interested in even the smallest thing that happens to her, or that she remembers.” Colm Tóibín, talking about the writing of ‘Nora Webster’, in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine [August 1, 2014] I found this a fascinating comment on the use of detail to connect with the reader. A popular style for a long time – really since Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love with its electrifying opening scene with the balloon – has been to grab the reader from page one and then fill in the context afterwards. With his concentration on detail, Tóibín suggests another way: trusting the reader to stick with it, slowly constructing the character and the context for her life, making her real in the reader’s imagination. It works only
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Nora Webster

This novel by Colm Tóibín is such a slow burn. I came to it after reading a thriller, so perhaps that’s why the pace seemed so slow. And then I took a deep breathe and let myself sink into the deep pool of the story. Reading this book was a little like listening to my mother tell the story of her life, tiny baby steps. The everyday voice of Nora, a kind of everywoman, is so clear. An ordinary woman, she is grieving for her husband Maurice and living in a world of echoes. This is a novel about grief, living with grief, and the slow re-awakening of life. Tiny baby steps. Nora cannot indulge her grief. For one thing, money is short and her two young sons must be cared for. Her two daughters too, though older, need their mother although they don’t think they do. Nora struggles to get through her own day in which every minute is shadowed by her loss, but life gets in the way, decisions must be made. Day to day she does the best she can, trying to get the everyday detail right but not seeing how her sons’ grief is manifesting itself.
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 32… ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ #write

“The morning was clear. There was no wind on the lake. There was also a great stillness. When the bells rang out for Mass, the strokes trembling on the water, they had the entire world to themselves.” ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ by Thomas Pynchon ‘The Fortunes of War’ by Olivia Manning ‘The Impressionist’ by Hari Kunzru And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THAT THEY MAY FACE THE RISING SUN by John McGahern #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-mo via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.