Writer: Louise Kennedy
Publishing House: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date of Publication: April 8th 2021
Rating: 4 stars
‘’The statue stood in the clearing. It was a wood nymph, lifelike yet diminutive, the height of an adolescent girl. A dappling of sunlight was flickering over her, the long light of late summer. Tendrils of ivy crowned her head. Fronds of maidenhair and lady fern were fanned out behind her, like the backdrop for a Victorian daguerreotype.’’
I admit this collection perplexed me to the High Heavens. There were a few mediocre-to-bad stories, but most of them were gems rich in Irish tradition and the way it still influences the lives of the characters. The myths and legends and the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland play a central part in every story. But did we really need crude sexual remarks every five pages, along with profanities whose purpose I failed to understand?
The End of the World is a Cul de Sac: A woman finds herself in a strange estate. Her husband has left her and she has become an easy prey. And despair is never a trustworthy companion.
In Silhouette: A dark story of a young woman haunted by the death of a man by the hands of her brother during the Troubles.
Hunter-Gatherers: Sometimes, moving in the countryside is not a wise choice. A bleak tale, rich in Irish Folklore with emphasis on the hare and its symbolism.
Wolf Point: A heart-breaking story on the nightmare of depression and the need to hold on, on fatherhood and fairy groves.
Belladonna: A young girl from Belfast is trying to cope with a bunch of horrible girl-bullies at school. When a strange couple moves next door, Roisin’s eyes open to the peculiarities of life and her own strength.
Imbolc: A mother who is expecting her second child in a year is trying to protect her family and her livestock from the cruelty of men. A strangely eerie story set during St Brigid’s feast.
Beyond Carthage: Two friends find themselves in Tunisia on a much-needed holiday. But they seem unable to lay the ghosts of misfortune and family to rest.
What the Birds Heard: The story had a promising start but it quickly went downhill and read like a cheap, trashy ‘’romance’’.
Gibraltar: The story of a mother and a daughter, of love and hope through the decades.
Powder: An extremely tender story of loss and togetherness and a hymn to the healing nature of Ireland.
Once Upon a Pair of Wheels: In my opinion, this story was unbearably bad. Using a Sheela-na-gig reference is all well and good, truly, but you need a story with a purpose. I found nothing here apart from sex-obsessed subplots.
Brittle Things: Oh, dear Lord…
‘’She went outside and stood on the street. Lights dotted the lower fields on the outskirts of the village. She couldn’t see the glen, just the black loom of it, the dark mass of rock and bog and secrets. She stepped on to the road as a car with a jazzed-up northern plate sped past, and the passenger rolled down his window and shouted something at her. She crossed the street after it, rainwater frizzing up around her ankles, and started walking.’’
Sparing the Heather: This story was outstanding! The setting and the bleak, mystical atmosphere of the moors turned this into a treasure.
Garland Sunday: A beautiful story of motherhood, loss, the wounds of the past and the choices we daily face, set in the land of the Tuath De Danaan.
‘’She had read somewhere that three corners were easier to defend against the fairies than four. There were no crosses or marking on the groves, just humps here and there, scarcely bigger than molehills. An unblessed place, for those buried with sin on them.’’