When All Is Said: A Novel by Anne Griffin – a #BookReview #readingirelandmonth20

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One of Goodreads’ 43 Most Anticipated Reads of 2019

March

Book Blurb:

“I’m here to remember–all that I have been and all that I will never be again.”

If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said?

At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual ­- though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.

Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerful and poignantly laid bare.

Beautifully heart-warming and powerfully felt, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said and done.

My Review:

When All Is Said by Anne GriffinOh, man, it’s painfully obvious I haven’t a literary appreciation bone in my body. There’s been hype galore, tons of five-star reviews, and really, it’s a rather remarkable novel–a debut–for heaven sake that’s stirred all the fuss. So what’s wrong with me that I had such a dreadful time getting through it? There were bouts of boredom, but still…if I was supposed to close the book and have a favorable impact hit me–that failed as all I felt was relief. I finished it. It was depressing. I don’t feel good. I feel relief.

You’ve read the blurb. You know it’s about an 80+ year old man, Maurice Hannigan, in a bar waxing poetic on the five greatest influences of his life. His wife, number one, whom he lost two years previous. But no, he doesn’t start the toasts with his wife. He does as so many octogenarians do–revert to his childhood–memories of how it all got started–and where it went off the rails. And why.

So there is

  1. Tony, his brother
  2. Molly, his daughter
  3. Doreen, his sister-in-law
  4. Kevin, his son
  5. Sadie, his wife

When All Is Said by Anne GriffinBecause of little then known dyslexia, he is forced to drop out of school at age ten to work on the same farm as his mother, owned by the Dollards. They are cruel and abusive but it is because of one small blip in time that the path of his life leaves him bitter and twisted and at this age, driven with regrets.

The author is an excellent storyteller–weaving the story of each component of his life with the stilted view of either his youth or the man he eventually becomes bent on retribution until he realizes it colored all his remaining relationships. It appears he is directing his thoughts to his son, although heaven knows his son isn’t there and I’ve no idea where, if any words were spoken aloud, that he might have found a sympathetic ear. Perhaps a stranger sitting close, but even then, the bar mate would have called for the next drink and found another seat.

I went hunting for Irish authors for Reading Ireland Month and saw this. It was available as a digital loan from my library and I was excited. I read a number of reviews and thought it sounded unique. It was. As with any authentically senior person, he tends to belabor the story, using a thousand words when a couple hundred would have done it. But you learn in some depth who each of the characters are and how they helped mold Maurice. Several were tragic. And the problem is–even at the beginning of the book–you know where this is going. There is to be only one ending. Gees, I’m too close to this whole thing and it’s a downer I don’t need or want to face yet.

Taken on merit, I understand why the acclaim, the interest, the success. The author’s writing style, while superfluous at times, wove a heart-rending story,  but too close for comfort. Although a powerful retrospective, because we know how it ends, the reader is rendered no hope for absolution from the beginning.

“…we were no different from our American cousins–the same things matter the world over: saving face and money.”
“I only ever wanted to belong to one person and she wasn’t in that room.”
“I didn’t need him to do anything other than just be alive. Is it the same for you?”

Mercy!

 Book Details:

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction, British and Irish Literary Fiction, Romance Literary Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Dunn Books

  • ISBN-10:1250251338
  • ISBN-13:978-1250251336
  • ASIN: B07D2C31WC

Print Length: 324 pages
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Source: Local Library Digital Loan
Title Link: When All Is Said 

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Anne Griffin - authorThe Author: Anne Griffin is an Irish novelist living in Ireland. Anne was awarded the John McGahern Award for Literature, recognising previous and current works. Amongst others, she has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Sunday Business Post Short Story Award.

Anne’s debut novel ‘When All Is Said’ will be published by Sceptre in the UK and Ireland on 24th January, 2019 and by Thomas Dunne Books in the US and Canada on the 5th March, 2019. It will also be published by Rowohlt Verlag in Germany, Delcourt in France, by Harper Collins Holland in the Netherlands, by Wydawnictwo Czarna in Poland, and by Tyto Alba in Lithuania .

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