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Dancing to an Irish Reel Paperback – March 4, 2015
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Reviewed by Carla Trueheart for Readers' Favorite
Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton tells the story of Hailey, an American who lands a job at a music centre in Ireland. Hailey helps local musicians organize their careers. At the heart of the story is Liam, a shy musician who steals Hailey's heart. Hailey is confused by Liam's behavior, and the two find they are similar in the ways they avoid telling each other how they truly feel.
Sometimes an author connects with their subject so well that it is evident in the story. Author Claire Fullerton gives many details of Irish life and culture, and the reader does feel very much inside the Irish landscape, hearing the voices of Irish residents, and breathing in the fresh Irish air. There is much to like in Dancing to an Irish Reel, from the inner thoughts of Hailey to the budding romance between Hailey and Liam. I enjoyed the little scenes that captured the magic of Ireland. The dialogue was spot on for the area, and I did enjoy the many characters and their interactions with Hailey. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a relaxed, sit back and read book, and is recommended to those who like stories with light romance and cultural commentary.
Claire Fullerton perfectly captures the Irish voice and lets the voices sing in your ears. Hailey and Liam are centre stage but they don't dominate the story.
The interaction between Liam and Hailey is well done, with both of them not being quite prepared to take the step forward which might bring them together. It felt very real.
There's a real feel for Ireland too. For a book which I didn't expect to read, I thought it was particularly enjoyable and I'd like to thank the author for arranging for a copy to be sent to me.
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Top Customer Reviews
Claire's gift of storytelling is evident and alive in her latest book.
Claire, you have ignited a desire to visit my ancestorial home of Ireland.
Thank you for your gift and sharing it with all of us.
Genre: music; European Literature; Ireland; romance; contemporary fiction
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC
Publication date: March 21, 2015
Number of pages: 222
A review copy of this novel was provided by Loving the Book.
This book is truly literary fiction. Clair Fullerton artfully weaves a subtle romance with poetic nuance. For me, the appeal was the routine. Some people like whirlwind vacations, but I like to settle in and grow some roots. Dancing to an Irish Reel is about Hailey settling into a small community and getting a feel for the personality of the locals. She meets the dark mysterious Liam Hennessey and can’t shake the attraction. This tale does a wonderful job of illustrating the different ways we go about falling in love; men versus women, Irish versus Californian. Hailey is analytical, curious, and straightforward. Liam is a free spirit, confused, and never faces anything straight-on.
I imagine each reader will connect with different personalities in the story. I liked Adrian. He is one of those guys who enthusiastically helps in any way he can. Some people find him extremely annoying, Hailey thinks he’s adorable. I also loved her description of an elegantly dressed older gentleman named Seamus Kearney. I want to sit with him and have a cup of tea.
A special skill Fullerton has is to allow each personality to be uniquely different. Typically writers create dialogues with the same speaking style. She writes each person’s dialogue differently. “In Connemara, we like to stay connected, you know. No need to be parted by a little thing like death.” This was Liam’s comment regarding the local haunted cemetery. After a couple of pages you can almost hear the Irish brogue.
If a sentence stands out in literature, I know I’m on to something good. In Fullerton’s case, many such sentences occur. My favorite of the book describes a businessman Hailey must deal with… Her first impression; “He had glowing white hair that stuck out every which way, and untamed eyebrows to match. A course mustache swept hither and yon to either side of his mouth as if it were fighting gravity.” Lovely, sigh.
I also appreciated her ability to stay true to first person POV. As any writer knows this isn’t easy. The first person can’t know what is happening out of their presence. Claire Fullerton masterfully pulls it off. Well done!
Since a novel cannot survive solely on its setting descriptions however, one must look not necessarily “deeper” into the storyline (the center becomes a rehearsal space and Liam is afraid of commitment), but more what Fullerton says about psychological interplay, using the music center and the relationship as emblematic launching points for a more comprehensive statement about people and language. It seems clear that the “dance” is what we do to avoid pain, and in doing so rob ourselves of beauty around us, right there in the mist Fullerton lets us taste and breathe. Still, one cannot hold mist in her hand or capture it in a box. Culture (that which is fluid no matter how seated in posterity) is impossible to encapsulate in one building (that which remains static) and love by design defies verbal definition and any sort of schematic consistency. Hailey is not our typical romantic protagonist. She doesn’t have “cheekbones an actress would kill for,” nor does she follow the more Victorian/Agonist paradigm so many romance novelists still employ through which a young girl out on her own seeks someone “older” and “father-like” (or rich and ultimately successful) to give her just enough freedom to discover she needs a man to best navigate the world.
On the contrary, Hailey Crossan is the strong figure here, unable to dissect and interpret her love interest - Liam’s hesitancy, so acute and debilitating he winds up sitting on her kitchen floor, looking at his hands, shaking his head in absolute helplessness. Considering this, one must conclude that there is something being said overall that transcends the relationship, for we are never actually given one. We are afforded glimpses of affection, a drink here, a visit there, a walk along a shadowed street now and then, all illustrating more silence and frustration than connection and closure.
The key is that Dancing to an Irish Reel does not achieve its agenda by unveiling a plot. The locus of Fullerton’s statement is in the theme she creates, or the power of the unsaid versus the futility (and paradox) of verbal interplay. Hailey is a symbol of America: blunt, courageous, and expressive, yet she meets her antithesis in Liam, who is subtle, meek, and conflicted. When either actually says something it is often misinterpreted or used as fuel to spark doubt. This is a relationship built on invented scenario as opposed to tangible romance, so most of the novel is stylistically delivered as introspection. This creates a wonderful dichotomy in that our narrator is much “closer” to her author than she is to her love interest, while “she” (both author and narrator in this case) is supposed to be the expressive one. The only conclusion we can draw from the idea that the evocative voice here is made to retreat to more subjective territory, is that Hailey or America or the culturally diversified have a world view that expresses itself like prose, while Liam, the traditionalist who is culturally rich and internally ornate in his own depreciating self-contradiction adopts a model for living more resembling poetry. Therefore, the tension of this piece builds from grounds both psychological and semiotic, making the reading itself a multi-textured pleasure.
The beauty of this text is not in the tragedy of its uncertain ending (which doesn’t read like tragedy at all actually), but rather in its delivery, that which is textured like fine embroidery suggesting the unsaid will always be more powerful than that which we try to define. Finally it is the art of interpretation that Fullerton lets us enjoy, through a lens that takes its example from the structure of the piece itself. I have read that there are many who call Dancing to an Irish Reel a literary piece, and whether or not this adds to its intrigue or appeal, or labels it as something cerebral and “heady” remains irrelevant. In terms of a genre piece, it reads like smart fiction, a romance that reveals the psychological mechanics of a budding relationship in a manner that both engages and touches the reader’s emotions. From a literary standpoint, Fullerton succeeds in utilizing a writing structure that acts as a thematic foundation of her module for the psychology of love, and that is a commendable endeavor. It is also one that is ultimately successful.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The story revolves around Hailey, an American with celtic roots, and is told from her perspective.Read more