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Julia O’Faolain is one of the most important Irish writers of the past half-century. Under the Rose is a selection of short stories taken from her many celebrated collections.
These are stories about families and relationships, religion and politics, new life and mortality, and their settings range from Ireland and the USA to Italy and France. O’Faolain exposes the delusions of sexual desire, explores the failings of the Church and unpicks the casual brutalities of a patriarchal society. In an afterword, she considers the art of the short story and the influences that continue to shape her work.
Powerful, profound and unflinching in their reflections on human experience, the stories in Under the Rose are masterpieces of the form.
Praise for Julia O’Faolain:
‘The assurance, range and diversity of her stories . . . proclaim a writer of daunting gifts.’ Guardian
‘Entertaining and rich in comedy . . . gripping and moving.’ William Trevor
‘A wonderful stylist and an exciting writer . . . Her work is joyous, urbane and intensely Irish.’ Independent on Sunday
Julia O'Faolain's powerful short stories should be more widely read and more warmly appreciated. They offer the traditional pleasures of the genre in scene-setting and characterisation but are spiked with an eccentric humour that is particularly her own. Under the Rose demonstrates both [O'Faolain's] practised skill and her desire to disturb the complacent.
The shocks she contrives, embedded in casual narratives, are darkly funny and often grotesque ... In between are finely observed glimpses of daily life ... O'Faolain's long reach, technical confidence and vivid scenarios mark her out as an original writer who has built on the literary legacies of her father, Sean O'Faolain, and writers from Elizabeth Bowen to William Trevor, stiffening her tales with a characteristic mixture of feminism, politics and recent history. This collection will enable readers to enjoy a sampling of the riches of the work of this distinguished author.
Superb ... This eloquent and compelling collection makes one thing clear: Julia O'Faolain's voice has a rare power that carries across themes and times ... O'Faolain is not a literal writer. Her men and women are sketched and sometimes caricatured with a lyrical bitterness. She is a superb stylist, laying bare uncomfortable truths in many of the situations. Her presentation of character is often radical in its lack of sentimentality ... O'Faolain is a continuously persuasive writer, but not, it seems, always an approachable one. And why? The answer, it seems, is surely in this collection, and it is entirely to her credit. In these memorable stories, Julia O'Faolain is ready and willing to explore, to examine, to reach for comedy and engage in feats of style. Willing, in other words, to complete many of the tasks of the fiction writer, except one. She is never willing, under any circumstances, to flatter. Not the society, not the subject matter and not the reader. If her characters are powerless, as they often are, she is plainly determined not to offer, on any account, that power over them to her reader. And so she resists even the secondary flatteries common in so much contemporary writing: the promising and reassuring, the reflexive return to optimism on cue. There are many reasons to admire Under the Rose, but this, above all, is what makes this collection so clearly the essential work of an essential writer.
There are those collections that are absolutely necessary - a welcome reminder of a forgotten author's prowess. Irish novelist and short-story writer Julia O'Faolain's Under the Rose is a case in point ... The 20 stories included - originally published between 1968 and 2006 - showcase a glorious talent.
[T]hese beguiling stories keep one pinned to the page - not always comfortably.
[O]ne of the most accomplished short story writers of the past half-century .... there's no hand-holding in these stories: you are plunged straight into a character's psyche, far beyond the logic of linear narrative ... exhilarating.
A skilled and distinctive voice … There’s a bleakness to [O’Faolain’s] writing, but it’s of a charged, intelligent kind, a refusal to compromise her truth to make it more palatable.
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