A collection of 25 stories, most appearing for the first time in the US, by the Irish writer Hogan (A Curious Street, 1984, Children of Lir, 1981, etc.): a bittersweet, lyrical tribute to the brittle lives of characters trapped by national violence, personal history, or a sense of restless destiny. With the exception of a few sketches that are passive or anemic, the pieces here are uniformly absorbing. "The Tipperary Finale" concerns an Italian girl who emigrates to Ireland to escape her history. After Irish sectarian violence infects her family and one son is sent to prison, she realizes that "the arc of Irish history. . .had touched her life and trapped her much more than Italian history had ever done." In many stories, civil-war violence serves as context or analogue to domestic conflict. In "The Mourning Thief," a son returns home to his dying father—and to a dialogue about violence and its place—before finding a cryptic epiphany reminiscent of Joyce's longer one in "The Dead." "Teddyboys" is a grim account of a boy (told by a young admirer) who stays in town on account of his mother, He lives long enough before drowning to become ordinary. "A Marriage in the Country" is about an "older possessed" woman who one day burns down her house with her husband in it, then has a passionate affair. Only at that time is she sent to a mental hospital: "Killing your husband was one thing but making love to a young Russian was another." In "Elysium," a woman leaves her marriage and Belfast for London and squats there in an abandoned house. Sectarian violence follows her: her housemate, whom she has cared for, is arrested and jailed for a bombing. A fine book—with remarkable, intimate explorations of isolation and landscape.
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