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March 6, 2019


#Ireland: Edna O’Brien

by NancyElin


Shovel Kings 

  1. An absolutely feel good story.…it is the longest in this collection.
  2. Title:  Shovel Kings refers to the young Irishmen who
  3. …came to England to do  construction and digging work.
  4. On payday they felt like (shovel) kings!
  5. Edna O’Brien describes Rafferty (60+)…
  6. “He doesn’t belong in England and ditto Ireland
  7. ….exile is in the mind and there is no cure for that”
  8. Rafferty and Edna O’Brien  have something in common:
  9. …both felt themselves as exiles having lived in England for 50 years.



  1. Delia runs a small B&B in a rural village.
  2. The beating heart of this story is her response to events internally.
  3. Her thoughts run wild
  4. ….imaging what her 3 guest are doing in one bedroom.
  5. Flashbacks of her marriage and her children combined with a
  6. bizarre dream of saints disrobed
  7. ….drives her to frantically taking a sleeping pill.
  8. Strong point: pace
  9. Pacing feels like a hand pressed in the middle of our backs.
  10. …pushing us along.
  11. The sense of trying to catch up with Delia’s thoughts.
  12. This sense must never slack.
  13. Delia alludes to lewd machinations
  14. ….going on under her roof.
  15. We want to know more….sort of voyeurism!


Madame Cassandra

  1. Mildred is the first person narrator sitting on the steps of
  2. …Mme Cassandra’s caravan hoping for a meeting.
  3. Her marriage is falling apart.
  4. In a moment of emotion she quotes W. B.Yeats:
  5. ...”Never give all the heart outright.”
  6. Does the older wife have a card up her sleeve ?
  7. Can she outplay the young lover’s trump card?
  8. Strong point: Tension increases.
  9. We want to know what Mildred will do.
  10. How can Mme Cassandra help her?
  11. This was impressive writing
  12. ….creating a flow of thoughts with a whiff of humor
  13. …that seems erratic but is so very well constructed.
  14. Strong point: Edna O’Brien is a champion ‘withholder’.
  15. It is her unwillingness to over explain.
  16. She lets the story end ….and the reader must decide.


Black Flower 

  1. Woman: Mona, painting teacher
  2. Man: Shane …in prison 15 years …just out a few weeks ago
  3. Mona and Shane meet to take a drive and have
  4. dinner in a restaurant.
  5. Shane is free but his enemies
  6. …are still looking for him.
  7. This was a short depressing story.
  8. I didn’t like it.


Read more from Ireland, short story
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 19 2019

    Very unique way of reviewing a book! I like it.

    • Mar 19 2019

      It is always difficult to review a short story collection.
      I prefer just writing down my first impressions per story.
      What is the crisis? What is the solution/epiphany? Which character was transformed in the story? (…clear change in attitude etc)
      I reviewed Julie Paul’s “The Pull of the Moon” (12 stories)
      ….you can see (Dec. 16 2018)
      a different template I use. It is very handy!
      Thanks for your commet


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  1. Reading Ireland Month Week Two round-up!

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