The Plot in brief: This short book is a collection of scenes, nineteen in all, set in and around a small Irish town. Each scene centers on one or more of the inhabitants, but the scenes are interconnected through family, friend and neighborhood relationships.
The Characters: I admire writers of short stories who can flesh out a character with a few strokes of the pen. They remind me of the artist who can draw, lightning fast, and within minutes deliver a charcoal drawing that is spot on. Of course not every writer is skilled enough to bring people to life in a brief few lines. Elizabeth Merry’s characters leap from the page, fully formed. Within a few paragraphs, I can visualize them in my mind. Whether, fat or thin, young or old, angry or frightened, she makes them come alive.
The stories offer us glimpses behind the curtains of the house and the soul. We get to peer into our neighbors hearts and homes and see what they would rather keep hidden. Some are self-aware, some oblivious, some entitled, some enslaved. It’s a voyeuristic peek into our neighbors lives, we can laugh, mock or draw back in horror at what they get up to when they think no ones watching. Even the simplest of people are more complicated than you’d imagine.
The Writing: The stories are told either in third or first person. The pace is fast and the stories zip along. I love, love, loved the dialogue, both internal and between characters. As an American reader, I really enjoyed, what for me was, the Irish dialect. It reminds me of my Grandparents who left Ireland in the 1950s and never shed their accent. The book is well edited and the prose is perfect.
Overall: I really enjoyed reading this short book. The setting was great, again, as an American, it was a glimpse into another country on an intimate level. The author doesn’t shy away from the brutality of human life, clothed in normality, they go about their business. But she watches as they shed their skin and peel away the niceties, exposing all their flaws to the reader. I’d like to have a drink in the pub with Elizabeth Merry and have her tell me her neighbors secrets but then again I’d be afraid of what she’s see behind my curtains!
I rate this book 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐