It took me several weeks of intermittent reading to plow through Firank Delaney's "Ireland." It isn't a bad book, but it is far from a great novel.
Ronan O'Mara is nine years old when an itinerant storyteller visits his Irish home. The storyteller is shortly sent on his way by Ronan's mother, a devestating event for Ronan who is enthralled by the storyteller's tales of Irish history.
Over the next nine years, we grow with Ronan who never halts in his obsession with finding the storyteller once again. He keeps encountering the shadow of the storyteller (who has no name) in his quest. These tales enliven Ireland and are alone worth the reading.
Ultimately Delaney invents some turns of plot that were obviously intended to be dramatic, but fall short of the goal. I will not detail these because to know them in advance would render the novel unreadable, for you'd know the mild surprises.
All in all, Delaney has crafted a fine collection of Irish myth and tales, which are delightful reading. The plot he wraps them in and the characters who populate the pages are thin stuff though.
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 … more
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.