Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Of Dublin and Other Fictions is a slim collection of short short stories whose format reflects its content. At 28 pages, and presented in a size roughly 3 quarters the dimension of a standard paperback it is a book that values brevity in both its content and design. But do not make the mistake of thinking this handsome and slim volume is in anyway slight. It is a beautiful looking object that feels great to hold in your hand, while inside each individual story shows just how much can be done with just a few hundred words.
The (almost) title story of the collection, Jesus of Dublin, opens with the eponymous statue introducing himself, the warm, friendly narrative voice drawing the reader in as he relates the trials and hardships of standing for hours in the street. It does not take long for the reader to feel a swell of sympathy for the character being presented, the first of many to be felt over the course of the collection’s brief span. Indeed, along with the variety of voices she is able to embody in her work, Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s great talent lies in her ability to generate sympathy for the all to real characters that populate her stories.
In Of Dublin and Other Fictions we view the world through the eyes of a grieving widow in 1691, inhabit the skin of a young immigrant woman forced to leave behind her daughter to seek work as a chambermaid in a Dublin hotel, learn the life lessons of trees passed from Treemother to Treedaughter, peek into the mind of Van Gogh at his most tormented, and, in a tip of the hat to Joyce, hear about the harsh and not so harsh realities of a marriage from the mouth of the long suffering wife within it, and the collections unifying and underlying sense of sympathy, somehow captured in the weft and weave of the sentences, seeps out and into the reader. We move from realms of fantasy to hard reality at the turn of a page but one thing remains constant. we care about what is happening, about who it is happening to. Nowhere is this more clear than in the story ‘Fish‘, a tenderly humourous tale which, in its final lines, beautifully turns a moment of embarrassment on its head to capture a moment of pure sympathy between its two protagonists.
Flash fiction or short shorts at their best have the power to live with us for far longer than the time they take to read, they extend beyond the confines of their word count, allowing the reader to imagine what came before, what might come after. And yet they must also be satisfying in themselves. Maintaining this delicate balance between completeness and expansion is not for the faint hearted. Luckily, in Nuala Ní Chonchúir, we have a writer who is the exact opposite of faint hearted, a writer capable of producing small stories far stronger than, from their size at least, they might appear. It is said that the best things come in small packages. Of Dublin and Other Fictions certainly proves the idiom has truth in it.
Check out the lovely book trailer:
Of Dublin and Other Fictions can be purchased from the publisher Tower Press and will be available on Amazon very soon.