Rated of 5
by Zed Masterson
The Nightingales Of Troy by Alice Fulton (2008)
This is a gem of a book - in every sense: beautifully written, carefully polished, intensely colored, each story set just so in the century. I suspect that metaphor just got a little more labored than I wanted, but having just finished Fulton's book, her crystalline prose is still ringing in my mind. The intensity of her devotion to her craft, an intensity that has long been her hallmark as one of America's leading poets, shows in her brilliant sentence making, and tempts one to the imagery.
Fulton's ten "connected" short stories involve us, at least briefly, in the lives of the women in an Irish family living in the environs of Troy, New York. Each story takes place in its own decade and the author's ability to make the language, whether dialog or narration, ring with authenticity is a pleasure in itself. (I suspect a great deal of research is hidden in that fluid authenticity.) This is, however, far from a family saga. The short form helps Fulton focus on character and relationships, rather than plot or theme.
The form also fits Fulton's wit and humor. Although there are some intense stories here, touching on suicide and madness, they are balanced by others which give her the opportunity to be funny, really, really funny. Of course, the next story makes you cry, just like life.
I bought the book in the first place because I have always enjoyed Alice Fulton's poetry. The fact that her prose fiction is so good was a pleasant surprise. Now I have put my plate in the book and it will begin its new life, being loaned to my friends as a "don't miss" read.