All Over Ire­land: New Ir­ish Short Sto­ries

The fo­cus on Ir­ish themes proves the adage that the lo­cal is the univer­sal. These are sto­ries that con­cern us all.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - KAREN ACKLAND

Deirdre Mad­den, edi­tor Faber and Faber Soft­cover $15.95 (272pp) 978-0-571-31103-3

All Over Ire­land fea­tures four­teen short sto­ries by con­tem­po­rary Ir­ish writ­ers, sto­ries in which em­i­gra­tion is a re­cur­ring theme and re­la­tion­ships are dis­lo­cated by ill­ness and death, so­cial in­equal­ity, and fam­ily se­crets. In short, the col­lec­tion cov­ers the full hu­man catas­tro­phe.

Char­ac­ters gather at funer­als and gar­den par­ties, in front rooms, and at faded beach re­sorts. Or, like the woman who be­comes in­creas­ingly un­bal­anced in the af­ter­math of her hus­band’s mur­der in Frank Mcguin­ness’s haunt­ing “The Widow’s Fer­ret,” they’re iso­lated by pol­i­tics.

Kath­leen Mur­ray’s “They’ll Best You with Fun,” about a crew clean­ing up a protest against cler­i­cal child abuse, is also po­lit­i­cal, though her tone is darkly comic. Fam­ily his­tory re­peats it­self in Michael Gil­li­gan’s “Ab­sent” when a young teenager deals with his father’s death, and again in Selina Guin­ness’s “The Weather Project” when an Ir­ish woman on a trip to Lon­don with her grown daugh­ters re­calls se­crets from her life in that same city over a half cen­tury ear­lier.

While many of the sto­ries are con­tem­po­rary, the mov­ing fi­nal story, “The Jour­ney to Gal­way,” by Colm Tóibín, is set dur­ing World War I and is based upon events in the life of Lady Gre­gory, a friend of Yeats’s and a co­founder of the Abbey Theatre. A mother learns of her son’s death and trav­els to Gal­way to in­form his wife. The story is a med­i­ta­tion on the be­fore and af­ter in a time of grief: “It came to her as a story that had been told and re­told rather than a bru­tal sin­gle fact.”

All Over Ire­land in­cludes a mix of new and es­tab­lished writ­ers, and each of its sto­ries are pub­lished for first time in this vol­ume. Not all sto­ries reach ex­cel­lence, but the fo­cus on Ir­ish themes proves the adage that the lo­cal is the univer­sal. These are sto­ries that con­cern us all.

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