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The Last Storyteller: A Novel of Ireland Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 7, 2012

77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Brimming with fascinating Irish history, daring intrigue, and the drama of legendary love, The Last Storyteller is an unforgettable novel as richly textured and inspiring as Ireland itself."   --Publisher's Weekly

For The Last Storyteller.
"Once again, Frank Delaney has spun a magical tale with his lyrical prose. This is a trilogy to be read and re-read. What a saga!" -- Book Reporter

The Matchmaker of Kenmare
“A delight to read . . . with its memorable characters and variety of adventures . . . [The Matchmaker of Kenmare] burnishes this veteran writer’s reputation as a consummate storyteller.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Engrossing . . . Delaney again unspools a fine yarn, while providing substantive insights into history and human nature.”—The Star-Ledger
Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show
“Wonderful entertainment [that] encompasses Irish history and politics, a mystery, a quest, and a coming-of-age story . . . written with style and humor by a masterful storyteller.”—The Boston Globe
“Entrancing . . . Delaney unleashes a cavalcade of memorable characters worthy of John Irving. . . . Teeming with life and a sprawling, chaotic energy, [this novel] scores another goal for Delaney.”—The Plain Dealer

About the Author

Frank Delaney is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Ireland, as well as The Matchmaker of Kenmare, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, Tipperary, Shannon, and Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea. A former judge for the Man Booker Prize, Delaney enjoyed a prominent career in BBC broadcasting before becoming a full-time writer. Born in Tipperary, Ireland, he now lives in New York City and Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Book Club edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067855
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

'The Most Eloquent Man in the World', says NPR, about the writer, broadcaster, BBC host and Booker Prize Judge, Frank Delaney. Over a career of interviews that has lasted more than three decades, Delaney, an international-best-selling author himself, has interviewed more than 3,500 of the world's most important writers.

Frank Delaney has earned top prizes and best-seller status in a wide variety of formats, from prolific author, a polished broadcaster on both television and radio, to journalist, correspondent, screenwriter, lecturer, playwright and scholar. He has been the president of the Samuel Johnson Society, president of the UK Book Trust, and the Literary Director of the famed Edinburgh Festival.

A judge of many literary prizes (including the famous Booker), Delaney also created landmark programs and passionate documentaries on many subjects including Joyce, Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Hemingway, Mailer, Matisse, Van Gogh and the vitality and organic growth of the English language - his famed BBC show on the way we speak, Word of Mouth, is still heard all over the English-speaking world. And his six-part series, The Celts, originally broadcast in forty countries, is still in active DVD distribution, some twenty years after its launch.

Mr. Delaney lectures all over the world, writes every day, and has created a significant podcast series: Re:Joyce, deconstructing, examining and illuminating James Joyce's Ulysses line-by-line, in accessible and entertaining five-minute broadcasts, posted each week on this website. The project is estimated to run a quarter of a century.

Born and raised in County Tipperary, Ireland, Delaney spent more than twenty-five years in England before moving to the United States in 2002. His first 'American' book was the New York Times Bestseller, Ireland. His second, the non-fiction Simple Courage, was chosen as one of the top five books of the year by the American Library Association. Since 2006, he has published five Novels of Ireland, all addressing, decade by decade, the twentieth century history of his homeland. His latest novel, "The Last Storyteller" (Random House, February 7th 2012) celebrates the mysteries of the ancient oral tradition as the last itinerant storytellers work their magic in 1950's Ireland.

Mr. Delaney lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut, with his wife, writer and marketer, Diane Meier.

Delaney broadcasts "Re:Joyce," a weekly podcast on James Joyce's "Ulysses" on his website You can find his daily writing tips on Twitter:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Here's the thing about Frank Delaney - when that blurb on sites like GoodReads and Amazon refer to him as "unparalleled" when it comes to Irish History, they aren't exaggerating.

Delaney is the real deal.

I've loved this series ever since reading the first page about Ben and Venetia in Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. I was drawn in by the whimsical, perfectly illustrated cover of that book, and since then I have been wooed and won over by the lyricism of Delany's storytelling ability.

There are times when a writing is so powerful you can hear the accent, or the coloring of the speech, and it is that way with this book. When Delaney talks about the old storytellers, when he describes the way the voice sounds, the rising and falling of the rhythms, I feel transported, and am enchanted right along with the characters who, enviably, get to hear more than I do.

That's right, I said enviably. It's not often I envy a character, but man.. This book made me do so.

While I loved the continuation of Venetia and Ben's story, I have to say the diverging into the old tales (there was one story in particular that had me gasping - think banshee) is what made this book a treasure to me. I felt as if I were part of that privileged circle that gets to experience what it must have been like to listen to the Bard's of old.

Mr. Delaney, thank you. You do those Bards credit - and personally, I think you should sign your name "Frank Delaney, Bard" from now on.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was fortunate to receive an advance review copy of Frank Delaney's The Last Storyteller. It was my first introduction to his work, and even though the book is part of a continuing series, it works wonderfully as a stand-alone novel.

While the beginning is just a tad slow, it was soon easy to be lost in Ben and Venetia's story while still being captivated by the interweaving of the legends and mythos of Ireland too - not an easy feat, and one that shows off Delaney's considerable narrative skills.

Delany is both a lyrical writer and a master of pacing. He draws characters with a few deft strokes and makes them seem complex and believable. I was taken by the contrast of beautiful description and the casual brutality of many of the scenes. It really captures a time period in Irish history and brings it to life. And in segments where a love story could have been somewhat self-indulgent, it speaks to the way we mythologize our own lives and how we pass down our memories to future generations, how we can't escape our own histories and how we draw on the past to fill out our lives.

While historical in nature, that history never seems rote or boring - it's a breathing, living thing that is just as compelling as any piece of action or intrigue. It's a beautiful and exciting book, full of memorable scenes, and I highly recommend it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jean Brandt on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Had the privilege to be asked to review Frank Delaney's newest novel. Though I have read all of his books to date, I have only reviewed one other, Tipperary, which was my first experience reading anything by Mr. Delaney.
Reread my first review and was struck by how "timid" the review sounded. After reading the rest of his novels, I would like to trumpet Frank Delaney's story telling abilities from a few rooftops. Obviously, this would be impractical but I will post this review of "The Last Storyteller" to several sites online. Urging others to visit Ireland, learn a bit of it's history, experience much of it's wonderful character and enjoy (I smiled a lot) many tales taken from it's folklore, through the eyes of a wonderful Irish author.
The title of this book "The Last Storyteller" is, for a reading person such as myself, a dire thought. Was raised on stories, both written and verbal, believe them to be a part and parcel of who I am, not wealthy in so far as material belongings but rich in ways that transcend money and things.
Frank Delaney himself is a storyteller of the old school and this book is about such a storyteller. The story follows the life of one man who takes on the old profession of a traveling storyteller. But, this is a pretty simplistic discription. The book is so much more. The history of Ireland with all of it's drama, the character of the Irish people and the beauty of it's land are all drawn on the page by a an artist, a wordsmith I would say.
To read this book is to travel and to meet new and interesting people. One will turn the last page having added immeasurably to their lives.
This review comes with this warning.....if you read one of Frank Delaney's books, you will want to go back and read them all, as I did.
Read this book ! Enjoy !
Thank you for sharing the stories Mr. Delaney...may the "Storytellers" be around for a long time !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Last Storyteller
Frank Delaney

What is a "Seanchai"? A Seanchai is an Irish storyteller, a bard, someone who maintains and relates Irish history verbally and by memory. Irish history has been passed on by these Seanchaithe traveling from village to village, telling their stories in the living rooms and kitchens of the rural Irish people for centuries.

Ben McCarthy is an Irish story collector, employed by the Irish Folklore Commission traveling and collecting stories throughout the Irish countryside. Ben's mentor, James Clare (another story collector), bequeathed his most precious resource to Ben while on his deathbed. John Jacob Farrell O'Neill was known as the most powerful remaining storyteller in Ireland (possibly the world), the last great Seanchai. Up until James Clare passed him onto Ben, James had jealously guarded John Jacob as his own. Now Mr. Delaney begins to weave a story of Ben McCarthy's life while paralleling this journey with Irish stories told by John Jacob in the best of Irish traditions. Ben falls in love, marries his love, loses her, finds her again, skirts dangers with the IRA, arranges for the murders of 3 men, condemns himself for his actions and begins a path to redemption.

This is but a short list of the travels and travails of Ben McCarthy. The reader is exposed to an intimate view of Ireland in the 1950's, the hard lives of the Irish in the rural countryside, the violence and the subterfuge caused by the conflict between the IRA and the English.

These narratives are full of Ben's introspections as he faces one hurdle after another. My contention would be that it is near impossible for any human being to read this book and not be able to relate on many levels with Ben and his troubles.
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