Donal Ryan: A Slanting of the Sun

Don t sugar coat life they don t shy from the harsh realities of human nature and they all linger for longer than the reader may necessarily want them to A powerful collection which should be savoured Don t bother putting it away when you have turned the last page You may just be reaching for it time and time again Donal Ryan is back this time with a short story collection peopled by Irish men and women often on the bitter hard side of life sometimes on the receiving end of injury sometimes on the doling out The life is often hardscrabble as these people search for food or companionship or work or money or perhaps love They most often fail or cause others injury But Ryan brings their lives truly to lifeThere are immigrants and emigrants There is an Irish priest in Syria bridging a cultural divide while he is able Men seek justice against a rapist An old man remembers the war There is evil and fragments of good The stories are sometimes difficult but they are also sometimes beautifulIn the title story Ryan writes There was a silence in Michael like a space where nothing existed A hole ind of or than that A vacuum isn t it where an empty space hasn t even air in it Some would just say it was loneliness a longing for a sharing of his days with someone besides his older brotherLeaving off the final phrase of that sentence besides his older brother I think this description could describe the essence of many of Ryan s characters the good and the bad They are all searching I do continue to recommend reading Ryan s works and add this to The Spinning Heart and The Thing About DecemberA copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review Still trying to decide how I felt about Ryan s work after his first two novels I was excited to read this his first short story collection It essentially failed at everything I believe a short story should seek to accomplish Short stories should still seek to be stories They can be thought experiments or places to flesh out ideas but they need to be stories If a novel ends without resolution then this can be argued as an artistic choice but for a short story it just feels like an abrupt way to offer something incomplete and none of these stories bothered to develop plots characters or find resolution They were thoroughly forgettable literally moments after finishing some of them I struggled to recollect much of the details and I often found myself impatiently waiting to get through each one not good when Some nice short stories about life choices opportunities love Some taken some missed My favourite short story is Aisling 35 Donal Ryan Irish author of the novels The Spinning Heart winner of the Guardian First Book Award in 2013 and The Thing About December returns with 20 jolting voice driven short stories suffused with loneliness and angerNineteen of the 20 are in the first person echoing the chorus of voices that made the narration of The Spinning Heart so effective Many of the narrators speak in thick dialect and run on sentences which helps to immerse you in the rhythms of Irish speech Hallucinations mental illness and mythological references provide a varied undercurrentAlthough the themes range from elder abuse to memories of the First World War it is the strong characters and distinctive voices that bring the collection together Often the protagonists are coming to terms with the effects of violence whether their own or others A young man just out of prison strikes up a surprising relationship with his dead girlfriend s mother an old man reflects on the day he and some friends took vigilante justice on a rapist a serial iller takes a final souvenir from a victim before turning himself inMake no mistake these are bleak tales There is a sense of fate hanging over the characters directing their steps into inevitable tragedy The ways of some things are set like the courses of rivers or the greenness of grass caused by the meeting of tiny things wrought by a chance slanting of the sun things without meaning or rhyme As that title phrase proves though Ryan s poetic writing makes even the darkest stories bearableIn a book full of lonely people it is the moments of connection however fleeting that matter For example in Long Puck one of the best stories a Catholic priest posted to Syria initiates interfaith hurling matches that temporarily lift everyone s spiritsBy resting an unflinching gaze on unlovable characters refugees liars suatters travellers and murderers Ryan shows admirable curiosity and compassion. Lonely middle aged shopkeeper and her assistant Disconnection and new discoveries pervade stories involving emigration an Irish priest in war torn Syria or immigration an African refugee in Ireland Some of the stories are set in the same small town in rural Ireland as the novels with names that will be familiar to Ryan's readersIn haunting prose Donal Ryan has captured the brutal beauty of the human heart in all its failings hopes and uiet triumphs.

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I now of Donal Ryan through his award winning novel The Spinning Heart When I discovered he was publishing a collection of stories it made sense Ryan is one of those writers whose prose works in short and long form The acute observations the imaginative use of language his writing brings alive the intricate cruelties and pain of life and offsets these with the moments of Gold Rush kindness hope love and humourSome of the stories in this collection are snapshots into people s everyday lives Others are specific tragedies for example death prison and conflict I particularly liked The Passion which aches with regret and the sense of notnowing how to make a situation better The Slanting of the Sun filled with menace and hope the building tension in Nephthys and the Lark the sense of completion in Trouble the irony and humour of Crouch End IntroductionsThis has to be one of the most wonderful story collections published I read two stories a day one with my breakfast and one in bed Each one struck me bam in my guts and I was momentarily immobilised while my imagination fizzed and spun Sometimes it was a phrase a particular word or the way that Ryan conveys an action or emotion which made me think yes that is exactly how it is What I like about short stories is the concentrated experience the sharp focus Reading Donal Ryan s collection is the euivalent of popping a chunk or two of Green Black s 85% dark chocolate into your mouth and letting it dissolve from room temperature It s a strong and sensual hit not too sweet and definitely to be savouredI have been a fan of Irish writing for many years My collection of Seamus Heaney s poetry is rarely all on the shelf at the same time and his depictions of rural life and its parallels have been favourites of mine for many years I adore the stories of William Trevor and Kevin Barry and Claire Keegan s work has a similar effect on me as Donal Ryan s Increasingly I have been reading Irish crime fiction Reading Irish writing as a non Irish person is a particular experience whether it is set in Ireland or not With its characteristic themes of pain love death conflict and beauty so much is familiar yet the culture and history in which the pieces are steeped are not Irish writing is simultaneously personal and political humour and strong family bonds provide the backdrop for the details and minutiae which represent years of history and struggleIn sum for me in an era w Intriguing stories about the inevitability of fate and chance determining one s life Most of the characters in the stories are fatalistic and accept what was destined for them The best stories of this collection slowly reveal what is the matter There a few stories that are too simple one dimensional and a few that are overwrought This collection of short stories from Donal Ryan is similar to his novel The Spinning Heart which could also have been read as a series of short stories with each chapter told from the perspective of a different character albeit one with a unifying theme and plot to tie everything together Again there is extensive use of first person in fact I don t think there s a single story that doesn t use it present tense and of course Irish dialect I have to say I preferred this format in The Spinning Heart the stories are effective individually but over the course of twenty tales they begin to blend into one especially as so many of the narrators have similar voices A Slanting of the Sun also has rather too many occurrences of salt of the earth characters suddenly coming out with lyrical poetic unavoidably literary descriptions the sort of thing that doesn t seem incongruous in a single story but starts to become noticeable when it happens again and againI really enjoy Ryan s writing and the things I disliked here were mostly matters of repetition I think I would have given any and all of these stories higher ratings had I read them in isolation Nevertheless I felt lukewarm towards A Slanting of the Sun and was rather glad to come to the end of itFavourites The Passion just out of prison a man forms an unexpected relationship with the mother of the girl he illed Tommy and Moon a writer reflects on his friendship with an elderly neighbour Trouble a girl experiences her first taste of prejudice when her beloved father starts a fight at a scrapyard Long Puck a Catholic priest in Syria organises hurling matches to help bridge local divides Losers Weepers a group of neighbours search for a woman s missing engagement ring Grace a refugee tells the story of how she came to Ireland Donal Ryan's short stories pick up where his acclaimed novels The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December left off dealing with dramas set in motion by loneliness and displacement and revealing stories of passion and desire where less astute observers might fail to detect the humanity that roils beneath the surface Sometimes these dramas are found in ordinary mundane situations; sometimes they are triggered by a fateful encounter or a tragic dec.

Rouch End Introductions similar to the above but the narrator is an Irish woman who s trying to make a living in London I received an advance review copy of A Slanting of the Sun from the publisher through Edelweiss A true talent this author makes us see behind the faces that are presented to the public See behind these lonely displaced down and out people to their humanity hopes and failures All of these stories are very good but a few stood out for me One of the stories is Lark where a woman is thinking of things to do for her husband a rather normal life ids just leaving to go to work and then well what happens just whacked me in the face I actually hade to reread the paragraph Won t soon forget that one The other one concerns a priest in Syria and a hurling game another one that surprised meOf course since all these stories take place in Ireland hurley and hurling is mentioned in many of the stories and in some the brogue speech helps make them seem authentic I have read both of his books and loved them too A new favorite author for me Don t read this unless you are in a happy place for this a dark dark collection of short stories that deal with the darker shameful side of human nature The prose in places is sublime up there with Ireland s great writers Each story is powerful and compelling similar is style to the Spinning Heart Not to be rushed but should be savoured 45 stars A collection of twenty short stories from one of Ireland s most loved authors this is Donal Ryan s third published title The consecutive successes of The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December were the stuff of dreams Originally rejected many times the author s novels were discovered by an intern in a small publishing house and went on to capture the nations heart and imagination whilst riding high on the bestseller list for most of 2014 Ryan s lyrical prose and study of a rural Irish community recovering from economic downturn showed how the literary form can thrill a reader as much as any contemporary fiction The author s talent at showing beauty in the everyday mundane lives of individuals shone from the pages of his books and introduced a bright new voice to the already established yet unofficial Canon of Irish literatureUnderstandably there was a fear that this collection may not be as powerful or have the same originality of his earlier work The fear is unfounded This is a book of delight Warm yet sharp devastating yet memorable ironic while at the same time believable Characters are brought to life with concise clarity and a meaningful manner The reader encounters liars cheats victims and the marginalized There are insights into the minds of the disillusioned the disenchanted and the desperate While each story has its own uniue narrative there is a sense of uniformity throughout the collection The goodness within can be tarnished by the need to function in a modern society to expected standards and beliefs The exhaustion of hiding inner darkness is achingly obvious and the reader is not reuired to be a judge or jury at any stage The stories are simply a peek through the eyhole not a complete picture but enough to catch a glimpse at the workings of others livesIn Trouble we are witness to a young boys heartbreak when he is once again stigmatized as being part of the travelling community He is devastated to learn that he may never escape this that his whole life will be one circle of judgment In The Suad we are privy to the memories of an old man now in a nursing home There are elements of regret languishing within him and despair at his inability to change the past Sky is detailed with beautiful prose showing how much a child can lend to the life of a lonesome adult and that dependence can occur without obviousnessHurling is a recurring theme in many of the stories with A Long Puc standing proudly erect among the tales An Irish priest brings his love of the game to Syria and instills the joy of the sliothar and the hurl to the village Impromptu games and tournaments are arranged and there is a brief moment of joy in the battered land The collapse of this brief unity is made all the devastating with the image of an unused hand carved hurley laying in wait against a holy water font The pain is raw and realThis is not a collection which will make you feel comfortable It is not one that should be devoured in one sitting Each story deserves its own space its own time and its own contemplation While some tales are shocking than others some have meat to them they all have one thing in common The. Ision At the heart of these stories crucially is how people are drawn to each other and cling to love when and where it can be found In a number of the these stories emotional bonds are forged by traumatic events caused by one of the characters between an old man and the frightened young burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; between another young man and the mother of a girl whose death he caused when he crashed his car; between

Donal Ryan is the author of the novels The Spinning Heart The Thing About December the short story collection A Slanting of the Sun and the forthcoming novel All We Shall Know He holds a degree in Law from the University of Limerick and worked for the National Employment Rights Authority before the success of his first two novels allowed him to pursue writing as a full time career