Review by Shellie for: The Last Storyteller ~ by Frank Delaney
“Do you have room in your mind for a tale of life itself, a tale of wonder, wisdom, and delight?” (page 331)
This is a book for story-tellers and story readers. It’s the third stand alone book in Frank Delaney’s “Novel of Ireland” series. It includes Irish history, myth, and lore layered with its 1956 setting. It’s a book that will please those who wish a vicarious trip to Ireland and the oral traditions of its past.
About: This is a multi-layered story which is the third book of the series starting with Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show and then The Matchmaker of Kenmare. In this latest novel, the main character Ben travels about Ireland recording the oral myths, stories, legends, paranormal sightings, and cures of the local residents to archive for the country.
He is emotionally battered and reeling from the loss of his enigmatic wife Venetia, who left him years before. Blaming himself, he tries to forget by burying himself in his important work. While doing so he is inadvertently caught between the police and the IRA, becoming indirectly sucked into extreme violence and narrowly escaping several horrific incidents. Combined with the drama and emotional upheaval, what evolves is a thriller of sorts where the reader is left wondering what heartbreaking event will happen next – whether emotional from Ben’s dramatic relationships or due to the warring sides.
Most importantly, interlaced through the realistic story are the tales which Ben records, and that mirror the “real life” incidences occurring for the characters. This creates a novel which has a special quality, affirming the importance of story telling and myth through the ages and their modern relevance.
Thoughts: This novel has a “magical realism” flavor which I liked a lot. I giggled, I cried, I wanted to skim quickly ahead to see what the next event in the continuing drama would be. But with this literary novel reading slowly is the best way to experience the subtle truisms and humor the author has hidden there.
The only niggle I had was that I found it hard to relate to Ben in the first 2/3rds of the novel. He is emotionally lost, depressed even, and pines for his lost love Venetia, who loves him still. Yet he lacks the gumption to step up and to win her back. It was difficult for me to deal with his vacillation. However, from reading other reviews of the previous novels in the series I know now that Ben’s attitude is built upon years of events which have affected him. I am thinking that it is important to read the other two books prior to this novel in order to completely “get” Ben.
Regardless, as a stand alone it does work. The story is well written, jammed packed with interesting events, and contains advanced writing techniques. I enjoyed this book a lot and think that many parts are exceptional. Highly recommend for anyone who tells or writes stories; and for literary fiction readers definitely. It has the trick of pushing the reader to work for the prize of each juicy dilemma and attests to the importance of the art of telling a good story. I give this novel 4 stars.
A big thank you to Tara for providing a copy of this book to review. I have wanted to read a book by Frank Delany for some time, and so jumped at the chance. Next one up is his book Ireland. I have it in audio.
Also, I highly recommend following Frank Delany on twitter, his tweets are thoughtful, with some interesting and helpful suggestions for writers.
Thanks for reading.