Foreword Reviews

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.

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 Tόibín, 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.

Reviewed by Karen Ackland

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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