Seventeen engaging tales of love, loss, and redemption with a charming Irish lilt, in a first collection by the 1992 winner of the Frank O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Set mostly in small towns along the chilly Irish coastline, these tales explore the lives of girls and young women struggling to learn the nature of life, death, love, and, most especially, the male sex. From ``Deep Down,'' in which a young woman from a farm community flirts with a town boy she once baby-sat, to ``Dreams of Sailing,'' whose quiet college-graduate heroine is involved in a love affair with a man more interested in his new sailboat than in her, to ``Le Soleil et Le Vent,'' in which a widow tries to distract herself from her grief with a visit to relatives in France, the fleeting nature of the women's encounters with love contrast with the eternal quality of the villagers' interactions with the sea. Interspersed among the tales is a series of narratives featuring a girl named Una, whose experiences growing up (including a premature sexual adventure with an adult man and a fascination with a schoolteacher/nun who left her order) allow the author to delve more deeply into the issues of power, sex, and death as a young girl first encounters them. The author's themes are evoked most memorably, though, in ``The Whale in the Garden,'' whose young narrator finds a dead whale on the beach and helps a local spinster bury it in her garden in an effort to clean the skeleton before donating it to a nearby museum—only to see the spinster move away after her ailing father dies, leaving her lovely home untended and the dead whale's fate left to indifferent nature. More brief slices of life than well-rounded stories, but, still, these tales leave the reader dreaming of chilly coastal winters and warm cups of tea.
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