That’s the impressive thing about this comprehensive collection; there’s wound and antidote, with abject hopelessness tempered by hope. In Kit de Waal’s “The Beautiful Thing”, a father tells his child of the racism he endured when he arrived from Antigua, and of his determined refusal to give in to ugliness. “And don’t be angry. If you look, you will always find a beautiful thing.”
For me, the emerging themes were the love and loss of place, emigration, labour and hunger, domestic violence, marital infidelity, gang war and the crimes and consolations of the Catholic Church. (Perhaps this list is at least a partial answer to question about what makes a story Irish or not, but there are also of course reflections on love and death and sex and all the things everyone writes about all over the world.) I began to think that the stories were harmonising with each other, echoing the same melody in a different key, playing an unexpected variation.