Frank Delaney's Ireland is my kind of novel. Rich with character, history, and lyrical language, it is at once the chronicle of a nation and the coming of age tale of a young man. The story opens with the arrival of a man who may be Ireland's last itinerant storyteller, and from the moment he begins describing the evolution of prehistoric New Grange, his audience is enthralled. As is Ronan, who from that evening on finds his career and his very life shaped by this enigmatic, nameless wanderer. The millenium-long trauma of a nation's building, the travails of a single 20th century family, the beauty of the landscape, the pain of loss and love, poets and leprechauns - it's all here, fascinating and beautifully expressed. If the book has a flaw, it's in its length. Though it bogs down after the halfway mark, Delaney's riveting conclusion more than makes up for that. Highly recommended for lovers of good historical fiction.
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After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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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.