The one problem with reading a book that is written like the Dubliners is that each chapter involves a fresh mental engagement because it is not following on from what has gone before but is something different. It can make it slightly more of a struggle compared to reading a traditional novel. There is also a growing suspicion that he is writing about people based in different parts of the City and depending on where they are from there is a meaning there that would be instantly recognised by someone familiar with the City, which I am afraid I am not.
But on the positive side there is a skill in the writing here that hints and leaves gaps for you to fill in that gives you enough to expand in your mind on these short excerpts of people’s lives.
Bullet points between pages 47 – 104
Two friends discuss how they have wasted time and money taking girls out to wine and dine them before seducing them. One boasts to the other that he is now able to get paid for taking the women out and tells his friend to wait until the end of his date to prove it. You sense that the price of proving it to his friend has been irreparable damage to his relationship but at the end of the night he had a gold coin in his hand.
The Boarding House
A woman separated from her drunken husband runs a boarding house with her daughter and son living there. Her daughter Polly gets involved with one of the lodgers and the mother decides that to protect her moral standing he must marry Polly so intervenes in the relationship and forces him to make that decision – one that both dread being made
A Little Cloud
Two old friends meet after a gap of eight years with one returning to Dublin with a successful career as a journalist in London under his belt. The two friends meet in an up market bar that the Dublin-based resident had been past many times but not been able to go into and as he talks of his wife and child he sows the seeds of resentment that flare up when he gets home and is left in charge of his infant son
A man who comes across as an alcoholic ruins his chances of keeping his job as a legal clerk after being rude to his boss and then pawns his watch to fund a drinking spree. But he ends up only half drunk, loses his reputation for a strong man after being beaten at arm wrestling by a younger man and then heads home and finding his wife out starts to beat one of his five children to make himself no doubt feel more of a man – an insightful take on that sort of abuse from the father’s side
Maria visits one of the men who she used to look after when he was a boy and tries to make it special by buying a cake that she leaves on the tram and those she is visiting try to make it memorable but the most powerful scene comes from the mistake the old maid makes singing a song calling on those who loved her to love her still