This is a wonderful and delightful book. It contains 30 varied stories told with romance, passion and surprising eroticism. The love explored is largely romantic, but the romance is revealed in many different forms – beautiful, passionate, powerful and fearful.
The collection has a great variety of stories which reflect the range of interests of the author, a storyteller himself. The stories are neatly contained within 4-6 pages, largely providing enough detail to be told as they are but allowing for additional elaboration.
There is Irish mythology, with some familiar tropes such as the swan transformations in Dream of Love and some unpredictable endings with interesting twists such as Girl In A Riddle.
There are capricious fairies behaving much like Greek gods. There is magical realism in Dance of Love and the modern mythology of Rose of Love (the book is almost worth buying for this story alone).
There are legends based in a historical context such as the harsh romance of Tree of the Seven Thorns or Mother’s Love set firmly in the appalling context of the Irish famine of the eigtheenth Century.
There are parables as in the powerful Three Choices; a story I am keen to have a go at telling.
I enjoyed the chilling ghost stories – Face At The Window and Children of the Dead Woman, stories which I am also tempted to tell.
But a story which begs to be added to my repertoire is The Prescient Writing of a Snail with the humour, logic and comic timing peculiar to an Irish story.
Brendan shows himself to be both a writer and teller in this book. There is beautiful exposition in The Hunted Fawn and Gold of the Heart. Sometimes there is strong literary phrasing as at the end of Met Upon The Road which serves to guide the pacing of the storyteller while satisfying the reader.
However, I particularly enjoyed Brendan’s unique witty phrasing as in ‘his toes did not fully understand what was required of them in boots,’ and some beautiful and startling imagery, ‘her hand was as thin and white as the skin is between an egg and its shell’.
It is a nice touch that local witnesses or tellers are named who will back up some of these stories. As a storyteller, I loved the freedom offered by these stories.
At times Brendan immerses himself in the story and we hear his voice as a storyteller. At other times we have the bare bones which creates freedom for our own storyteller to emerge. There are one or two stories which are a little overworked such as Silver Shoes in which the teller interprets the story for the reader/listener but this is only an occasional issue.
The book ends with a delightful section called Love Potions and Other Lures, a collection of various ways to cause the pursued to fall in love with the pursuer. This is another useful resource for a teller to add to his/her repertoire as is, of course, the book itself
IRISH LOVE STORIES
a CD by Brendan Nolan with music by Martin Nolan
I loved this CD from the first banshee wail of Martin’s uilleann pipes to the closing notes of a far too short Danny Boy.
Brendan Nolan should be known to most of you through the pages of this magazine even if you haven’t seen him live. He is based in Dublin and has worked all over Ireland and in the UK. Martin is his nephew who is also well known as a piper. They perform together as Talepipe
The CD follows the format of stories alternating with tunes—a format which works very well and which I often follow myself at a live performance.
There is a good selection of tunes played on pipes and whistle: airs, jigs, a planxty, a polka. Brendan’s style of telling is slow, quiet and understated. He draws you in.
The album is called ‘love stories’ and they are.
I particularly liked Gearoid larla, a shapeshiftertale with a warning about the shape you take, the ending is quite vague and open to interpretation; and the Dream of Aengus (which I might appropriate if I can Anglicise it!) which vividly illustrates that state of manic stupidity which you go into when in the early stages of love.
Brendan finishes the CD with Danny Boy. It’s a song which has been done a million times—often very badly! Brendan just recites the words and as a poem it delivers the message very well indeed. The recitation is followed by a very short rendition of the tune on the pipes. Very short—it’s only 1.18.1 could have done with it being at least twice as long.
review by Pete Castle, editor Facts & Fiction