Sunday, 10 June 2007

Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan

Walk the Blue Fields
Claire Keegan
Faber & Faber

SHORT stories are seldom fastsellers, so it's a surprise to seek Claire Keegan's second collection so hot.

Or it is until you begin to read these brutally immediate stories, so intense that you must leave the book aside between them.

The settings are country places, the characters full of sly, articulate indirection. Nothing is said, everything is meant. Nothing is mentioned openly, everything is observed secretly.

Keegan's dialogue is unparalleled. More is always implied. In the extraordinary title story, a priest watches the woman he has failed marry another.

As the wedding party consumes the lamb with rosemary jus, and the groom's father smoothly takes the mike from his new son-in-law's blurting drunk brother, someone says to the priest: "I see they've put you down with the rest of the sinners."

Keegan's writing manages to be rich and spare at the same time, using every word with perfect economy for layers of different meanings. Beyond brilliant.

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