30 Under 30: A Selection of Short Stories by Thirty Young Irish Writers edited by Elizabeth Reapy with a foreword by John Walsh
The Irish Quarter
Neil J. Burns
"The Stalwart was a worthy ship and praised by all who sailed on her; but I, Manus Sullivan, a practicing physician of some five years now, was not of sea-faring confidence"
There are thirty stories in 30 Under 30: A Selection of Short Stories by Thirty Young Irish Writers. (I totally endorse purchase of this very fairly priced collection and will provide a publisher's link at the end of this post.) There is also a very interesting introduction by the editor Elizabeth Reapy (I have posted on her very well done short story, "Statues") and a foreword by John Walsh.. Agreeing with John Walsh, I think this book could well be a collector's item one day.
Posting on collections of short stories that include the works of many different authors presents a big challenge, to me at least. I do not personally care for reviews or posts on short story collections that simply have one or two lines on a few of the stories and then gush over the collection as a whole with standard book review quotes. These could in fact easily be written without reading much of the collection and to me it is like going on about a forest without realizing it is made up of trees. Because of the high quality of the stories and the collection's ability to acquaint me with contemporary Irish short stories, I now plan to post individually on all of the stories in the collection.
Upon completion of this project, I will list my top five stories.
"To Chapel Haven" by Neil J. Burns is the first work in the collection, and my guess it is the only one, I have so far read that is historical fiction, set in 1912. It is the story of a physician who has just returned to England from Canada to attend the funeral of a relative. While making the passage he reads The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. While on the long sea voyage Manus has lots of time for reflections on his life. As I read this I thought he could have been the ship doctor on the Pequod, if there had been one! He loves Moby Dick, as do I. He thinks about his home a small town in Quebec and his wife and son. He begins to reflect on the family he grew up in. The diction is old fashioned and in the style of an educated man of the times. We are there as he unites with family members he has not seen in many years.
There is a twist ending and I will leave it unspoiled.
"To Chapel Haven" by Neil J. Burns does a marvelous job of bringing the narrator and his time to life. I enjoyed reading it and thought Burns did a great job in depicting the inner world of Manus Sullivan.
I certainly hope to read more the work of Neil J. Burns in the future.
Author Data (From 30 Under 30)
Neil J. Burns is from North Antrim and has lived in Belfast for over ten years. The has published in several journals. He has recently finished his first novella and is working on his first play with a theater production company in Belfast.
He maintains a very interesting blog, Belfast is My Mojo.
You can find more information on 30 Under Thirty: A Selection of Short Stories by Thirty Young Irish Writers at the web page of Doire Press.