The Man Booker Prize–winning Irish writer’s new work (The Gathering, 2007, etc.) is a beguiling collection of 31 short stories.
Love—of partners, children, friends, siblings, the afflicted—is the hallmark of this group of rich, often short vignettes. Fury, tenderness, incomprehension and impulse illuminate scenes of modern life (work life, family life or a solitary life), highlighting the gulf and yearning stretching between men and women as they deal with attraction, procreation, money and mortality. The title story tidily encompasses the emotional range (and rage) of a couple managing a family visit with their newborn child, and similar fast-moving squalls of behavior mark others, like “Caravan,” in which a wife and mother struggles to cope with her kids and husband simultaneously. “Pale Hands I Loved, Beside the Shalimar” is a heartbreaking description of compassion extended toward a mentally disturbed friend, one of many tales of sex and friendship, lust and separate destinies. Contemporary Ireland is generally the setting although there are rare departures, as in “Here’s to Love,” a story of lost histories shadowing the present when friends meet in Paris, one of whom is now married to an older man, a survivor of Vietnam who still flinches at the barking of a dog. Eloquent images light up these overlapping stories like flares—a line of tulips flattened by the wind; a swarm of bees on a gatepost; a dusting of flour on a carpet. And, as always with Enright, there is mesmerizing language that can switch from comic to lyric in a blink. Voiced predominantly by female narrators, these stories spill over with warmth, wisdom, earthiness and an exceptional vision.
Another tour de force from a writer whose voice and perspective mark her as one of the cherishable talents of our era.