- Paperback: 236 pages
- Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC (March 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0990304256
- ISBN-13: 978-0990304258
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.
Readers meet one of the main characters, Liam, early, but just like Hailey, the central character, keep wondering when we’ll see him again. Intrigued, I kept reading as a relationship developed. Although a few readers might prefer a more traditionally masculine Liam, not many would object to an Irish version of Heathcliff, who reads poetry and plays traditional music in darkened pubs.
At the same time, Hailey, an American with experience in the record business, takes on a role to build up a music center, fostering the careers of Irish musicians. This plot brings in fully realized supporting characters and rounds out the action. At first, I wished Liam had been more involved in the music center, but I’ve realized his absence let Hailey shine as the independent protagonist she truly is. There isn’t any feeling of a woman needing rescuing about her, and that fact is refreshing.
Within a novel that creates a full story for each character, Hailey, and readers, also learn about another culture—the linguistic differences of English spoken in Ireland, the names common there, the sights and pubs of Galway, and rural traditions. I traveled via the written word, a gift given from such a well-thought-out work of literary fiction.
Writers pass on what they have learned through their words, which are the manifestation of a collective knowledge. It is a shamanistic quality which they possess.
A fine example of these very qualities can be found in a wonderfully written novel titled “Dancing to an Irish Reel” by author Claire Fullerton. Ms. Fullerton takes the reader on an inspiring journey of hope, love and music, through the beautiful Galway in the West of Ireland and the ancient province of Connaught. If you have never been to Ireland, reading “Dancing to an Irish Reel” will inspire you to dust off your passport.
John A. Brennan
2015 Indie Book Award winner.
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The story revolves around Hailey, an American with celtic roots, and is told from her perspective.Read more