Posted by on January 5, 2019 4:00 am
Categories: µ Newsjones

An illicit meeting between long-term lovers makes for a poignant, piercing meditation on middle age and the passing of time

Billy O’Callaghan is the author of three short story collections, which have won an Irish book award and a nomination for a Costa prize. His debut novel, The Dead House, appeared in Ireland in 2017 and was set in contemporary west Cork, an area of outstanding beauty devastated in the 19th century by the Great Famine. It deployed the horror genre to plumb the depths of the darkest horror in Irish history: by day, the bohemian characters cooked and drank and fell in love in a restored Famine cottage, but by night, dark spirits were unleashed. As a novel it was genuinely frightening; as an approach to an unfathomably dark period, it showed a writer alert to the effects of the past on the present, and an imagination willing to take risks to illustrate them.

In his last collection, The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind (2013), some of the stories – such as “Farmed Out”, about Ireland’s institutional abuse of children – were staggering. At his best, O’Callaghan creates characters who live with the reader. Characters who live with the writer, too, as evidenced by the reappearance of three of them from that collection in his second novel, My Coney Island Baby.

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