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SAINTS AND SINNERS By Edna O’Brien July 5, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.
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It is easy to tell that this short story collection was influenced by James Joyce. Edna O’Brien grew up in Tuamgraney in County Clare, Ireland in a house without books. The first book she bought was INTRODUCING JAMES JOYCE by T.S. Eliot, and her (figurative) love affair with Joyce and his writing began. Her characters are everyday people who live quiet lives, sometimes content, sometimes lonely and hollow, and politics, violence, and familial relationships, or lack of them, are some of the themes in these deep and rich stories.

O’Brien’s first novel came out in 1960 and her style and views have changed little with time. Her writing is extremely potent as her stories scramble across class, cultures and countries to expose people stripped down to merely being themselves.

The most haunting story, PLUNDER, is about the rape of a young girl, so is probably the most memorable. But this reader’s favorite was OLD WOUNDS, about grown cousins who recall, from their childhood, constant fights between their families. It is up to them to resolve these generations of spats, and the story reflects how grudges often seem to passed down through genes as readily as curly hair and certain health problems.

Reports keep surfacing that the short story is dying, as fewer and fewer collections are finding their way into print, but when a powerful anthology, such as SAINTS AND SINNERS comes out, it is certain to renew interest in the genre. Thank goodness for that!

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