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Ireland: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 15, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
BBC reporter Delaney's fictionalized history of his native country, an Irish bestseller, is a sprawling, riveting read, a book of stories melding into a novel wrapped up in an Irish history text. In 1951, when Ronan O'Mara is nine, he meets the aging itinerant Storyteller, who emerges out a "silver veil" of Irish mist, hoping to trade a yarn for a hot meal. Welcomed inside, the Storyteller lights his pipe and begins, telling of the architect of Newgrange, who built "a marvelous, immortal structure... before Stonehenge in England, before the pyramids of Egypt," and the dentally challenged King Conor of Ulster, who tried, and failed, to outsmart his wife. The stories utterly captivate the young Ronan ("This is the best thing that ever, ever happened"), and they'll draw readers in, too, with their warriors and kings, drinkers and devils, all rendered cleanly and without undue sentimentality. When Ronan's mother banishes the Storyteller for telling a blasphemous tale, Ronan vows to find him. He also becomes fascinated by Irish myth and legend, and, as the years pass, he discovers his own gift for storytelling. Eventually, he sets off, traversing Ireland on foot to find his mentor. Past and present weave together as Delaney entwines the lives of the Storyteller and Ronan in this rich and satisfying book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
To paraphrase a World War I song, it's a long, long way to the end of Delaney's reland--in more ways than one. In 1951, Alison O'Mara cast out the "last" seanachi, a wandering storyteller who told stories from Irish history and myth to the household and neighbors in exchange for housing and food. The old man left, taking with him the family's peace, stirring up family tensions and secrets. By alternating folklore and historical stories with the story of the O'Mara family, Delaney paints a vivid portrait of the country and fits both storyteller and family into it. There's something for everyone in this book: newcomers to Irish history will relish the rich stories based on real and imagined characters, while readers familiar with tales of the old sod will plow through the stories to find out what happens with the O'Maras. Heavy publicity will ensure demand for this novel, which recalls the work of James Michener and will appeal to readers of family sagas and popular historical fiction. Ellen Loughran
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Frank Delaney's IRELAND is true to this tradition: in both form and content, IRELAND is a tale spun robust and ranging. History and fable merge in this grand story narrated in part by a Seanchai, a traveling storyteller who finds a willing ear in Ronan O'Mara, a nine-year-old boy living in the Irish countryside. Ronan has heard from his father of such people, who entrance folk with larger-than-life yarns in exchange for a seat by a fire and a home-cooked meal. And entrance Ronan he does. The storyteller so influences and inspires young Ronan that he devotes his life to finding him and to seeking out the truths behind the stories.
Sainted characters, rogues on thrones, and lyric poets populate the teller's romances; the pages are full of political and religious unrest and upheaval. Irish history takes on a life all its own, a life rife with fiction and fact, interchangeable and often indiscernible as one from the other.
In the great tradition of Michener and Rutherford, Delaney writes a voluminous and impressive novel, one that captures the magic of Ireland and captivates the reader with its nod at history and wink at myth. Or is it the other way around? Maybe in the end, IRELAND is the epitome of storytelling, with the obligatory generous dash of blarney.
--- Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara
This glorious book -- which seems so accessible, and indeed, is accessible - uses language and style with elegance and depth and tells a story of such importance, that I can't imagine anyone not being moved and even changed by the reading.
There are so few novels about men, their place in their families and in the family of man. This is just, simply, one of a kind. It may be the most satisfying book I've ever read.
I've now shared "Ireland" with a number of friends and we all feel the same way. Just bowled over.
So - Juan, thank you for the inspiration to write and share my views - in hopes that I can inspire more folks to pick this up and find, in it's pages, their own ideas about family and history, secrets and stories, what it is we were meant to be and what it is we leave behind.
Whatever you do, don't miss this book!
As I read the above description, it makes the book sound rather dull. It's not. These are delightful stories intermixed the take of a young man growing up as he seeks the story teller who visited his community many years before.
Already a best seller in Ireland (surprise, surprise) this book is likely to go down as one of the best novels of the year. I wouldn't be surprised to see it receive several of the bigger prizes.