This is one of the most original collections of short stories I’ve read in a long time. And it’s by an Irish writer. What is it with the Irish and their love of words and stories?
These are all about relationships with men - both weird and wonderful. She focuses on the transitional moments - the beginning of an affair, or the end of it, and they are both romantic and bizarre.
In The Last Man, Francine is married to a man who no longer loves her, who is manipulative and controlling, but often away on business trips. Francine begins a series of casual affairs to alleviate the boredom. The last man has a tattoo on his back of Our Lady of Guadeloupe and he doesn’t turn out quite as expected.
There is also real horror here. In The Trip, Edward is ‘a raw, open wound of a man’. He and his male friend Pat go off for the weekend into the country to take Edward’s mind of the fact that his girlfriend has just dumped him. ‘I should have given her a slap.’ Pat plans a lively break, but Edward seems to be determined to kill off any prospect of enjoyment for either of them. His attitude to women also seems to leave a lot to be desired. Pat realises that he doesn’t know Edward as well as he thought he did. The ending is truly horrific.
Then there is the story of The Mercy Fuck - where a man persuades his girlfriend to take pity on their dying, virginal friend. Things don’t turn out as expected there either.
Pascha from Chechnya is seduced by a painter who exploits his memories of violence, and, in One Hare’s Foot, casual misfortune leads to tragedy on a summer afternoon on a boat.
These stories are all so good and so different it’s difficult to single any of them out for comment. Each narrator has their own ‘voice’ and they compel you to listen, like the wedding guest in the Ancient Mariner. They also demonstrate superbly what can be achieved in the short story form. Just when you thought it had all been done!
Nuala ni Chonchuir is a poet - winner of the Templar Poetry Pamphlet awards in 2009 and published by Salt, and has several other collections of short fiction as well as two novels published by New Island Books in Dublin - You in 2010 and the Closet of Savage Mementos in 2014. This is definitely a writer to watch (and read!).
She has a blog which you can find here.