Some call it the gift of gab. Some call it blarney. Others, the art of storytelling. However you label it, the Irish have a way with words, and spinning --- and living --- an epic tale always has been at the heart of their culture and history.
Frank Delaney's IRELAND is true to this tradition: in both form and content, IRELAND is a tale spun robust and ranging. History and fable merge in this grand story narrated in part by a Seanchai, a traveling storyteller who finds a willing ear in Ronan O'Mara, a nine-year-old boy living in the Irish countryside. Ronan has heard from his father of such people, who entrance folk with larger-than-life yarns in exchange for a seat by a fire and a home-cooked meal. And entrance Ronan he does. The storyteller so influences and inspires young Ronan that he devotes his life to finding him and to seeking out the truths behind the stories.
Sainted characters, rogues on thrones, and lyric poets populate the teller's romances; the pages are full of political and religious unrest and upheaval. Irish history takes on a life all its own, a life rife with fiction and fact, interchangeable and often indiscernible as one from the other.
In the great tradition of Michener and Rutherford, Delaney writes a voluminous and impressive novel, one that captures the magic of Ireland and captivates the reader with its nod at history and wink at myth. Or is it the other way around? Maybe in the end, IRELAND is the epitome of storytelling, with the obligatory generous dash of blarney.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 22, 2011
Ireland: A Novel