So, as I mentioned in my last post, Mel over at The Reading Life is hosting Irish Short Story challenge for Irish week, which is this week. Luckily for me, I am starting my mini-vacation today for our Spring break for the kids from school, so I found myself with some time to read this morning. Even luckier for me, Mel posted about a ghost short story he'd just read, "No Angel" by Bernie McGill, for his challenge. I loved his review so much, so I went and found the story online, here.
"No Angel" by Bernie McGill is set in Belfast and the outlying countryside. It is a ghost story, about a woman being haunted by her recently deceased father. The reason he is haunting her is the best of all reasons: he wants to protect her, still. And, he's lonely. I won't say what happens in this story, because it's lovely and melancholic, in the best way ghost stories can be. How can a ghost story be anything but, when the background - the reason for the ghost - is death? One death makes a ghost.
Mel did ask, do you believe in ghosts? And do you have a favourite Irish ghost story? Please let him know if you do, and do. For me, yes, I believe in ghosts. I've had some experiences that can only be described as being brushed by the other world. Since I believe that our souls continue after death - we came from something, and are going back to something after - it makes perfect logical sense to me, as much as it can when dealing with something nebulous like ghosts. I don't have a favourite Irish ghost story at this time. I am just starting to explore Irish fiction, partly because now I know we are Irish , as well as from all the countries that make up the British Isles, I want to discover my literary heritage.
So what makes this story Irish? Is there an Irish style of writing, or seeing the world? Definitely in seeing the world, there is. All the events of the 20th century are making their way through the soul of Ireland, through the fiction and poetry. How could something that has divided the island in half, and one sector of the population from the other, not shape their world view, and not impact on every idea and word shaped? When for decades, everyone was suspect, everyone was watched, and who to trust changed daily? Whatever our views on the Troubles in Ireland, English vs Irish, Catholic vs Protestant, Loyalists vs Republicans, all this conflict touched every corner of Ireland. Fiction and poetry is one way to work out what it means, and what it meant. History is still evolving in Ireland - and remnants in all of our consciousnesses, who have been alive since before 1980. When the bombings made news over here, the terrible cost of lives, throughout the 80's and into the 90's. Something as simple as there being no litterbins in London today is a reminder of how much the violence was real, and not so long ago.
All this is to say, that both this short story and the mystery I am currently reading, have echoes, the past very much something to do with the present. And that is what a ghost is too, isn't it?
I am so happy Mel posted about this short story. I am now going to get The Butterfly Cabinet, Bernie McGill's first novel, just published last summer. I think it is going to have a similar tone of melancholy and memory, it looks very interesting - the memoirs of a woman who was a nursery maid when a young girl dies, and the secret she keeps all her life.
So that is my Irish short story for Mel's challenge, although I want to see if I can find some more ghost stories for this challenge.
Irish mystery reading:
The mystery I am reading is Stuart Neville's Collusion. This is the second book, a sequel to The Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in Europe), which I read last year. My review is here. Collusion picks up where The Ghosts of Belfast finished, several months later. Gerry Fagan, who was haunted in The Ghosts of Belfast by the ghosts of the men he killed, is back, as is Detective John Lennon, father of Marie McKenna's daughter Ellen, and Bull O'Kane, whom Gerry left alive at the end of The Ghosts of Belfast. I am halfway through now, and loving it. I see there is a third book out now, Stolen Souls, featuring John Lennon, so I am thrilled that I don't have to wait long to continue this series. It is gripping, it is dark and violent and is right in the middle of the current modern Ireland, with politics mixed with the military and the police. It's also about love and how it makes people do interesting things. I quite like Lennon (and yes the name does come up in the book and reference to the Beatles!) even if he is not quite on the up-and-up, possibly. This is a dark Ireland, still bloody, and gripped by the remnants of the war just finished. Here is a link to the author's site, which lists his three books.
Are you reading anything to celebrate St Patrick's Day? Do you have a favourite Irish author, or book?
Books I'm looking forward to reading this year:
One last thing: In the review from last year that I linked to in the paragraph above, was also a review of The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I read then and loved. I have just received my current issue of EW, which has a short preview of the book, a glimpse of Chapter 2 from the new sequel, The Twelve, coming out on October 16. You can't read it online, it's only in this week's issue. I've linked you to the post and the new cover reveal. Another book to look forward to! I really liked how Justin portrayed the vampires as a result of viral testing gone wrong, and how 'wrong' the vampires feel, the darkness around them. The Passage was a dark book, scary in places, and very good at depicting how society would - could survive if this happened. Very dystopian. Yes, Oct 16 and The Twelve is on my calendar now.