From the book jacket: One wintry evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller -- a Seanchai
(pronounced shanachie), the very last practitioner of a fabled tradition
extending back hundreds of years, arrives unannounced at a house in the
Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his
hosts and some of their neighbors to join him by the fireside, and begins
to tell stories of Ireland's history. One of his listeners, a
nine-year-old boy, Ronan, grows so entranced by the story-telling that,
when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy
devotes himself to finding him again - a search that will take him the
next two decades and on a personal path that leads him deeper and deeper
into the history and mythology of Ireland itself, in all its drama,
intrigue, and heroism.
Comment: Delaney mixes myth, magic and history in a book that displays his obvious love for Ireland but which never, or at least rarely, tips over into jingoism. The stories told by the storyteller work as a body but can also be enjoyed individually, while Ronan's coming of age story provides a continuous thread.
As Kirkus Reviews puts it, 'Delaney steers clear of mawkishness and seems much less interested in calling attention to himself than in emphasizing the importance of the oral tradition to Irish memory and writing.....Reminiscent of the best of James Michener in scope and sheer crowd-pleasing potential.'
This review was originally published in March 2005, and has been updated for the February 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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