Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Sightseeing in Louth" by Bernadette Smyth

"Sightseeing in Louth" by Bernadette Smyth (2011, 5 pages)

The Irish Quarter:  A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1

Bernadette Smyth

"John is a third cousin once removed, or a first cousin three times removed, well he’s some kind of relation anyway, some shoot of some twig of some branch of the family tree which has found itself growing, by accident, in America.   He’s coming to Louth to explore his roots, i.e. us, and the plan is to feed him and warm him and give up your bed for him, it’s to generally help him, so that he can go back to America and tell them all how wonderful the Irish are, and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that he’s gone – thanks be to Jesus, the Yank who imposed on us for two full weeks in April."

Please consider joining us for this event.     Everything you need to participate is in the resources page, including links to 1000s of short stories, from brand new ones to stories now in the public domain.   Guests posts are also welcome.   Emerging Irish Women is now a full term event.   If someone does an online event in 2030 celebrating the Irish short story, I think some of the writers I have featured so far will be included among the great writers of the genre, if not more.   

"Sightseeing in Louth" by Bernadette Smyth is about an experience familiar to any family from a country where much of the population has  emigrated, the visit from a distant relative in search of his or her roots.  It is a frequent event here in the Philippines.     Smyth does a brilliant job of showing the impact of the two week visit of third cousin John, the bearded  American cousin who wants to see and experience as much as he can of the history and culture of Louth, Ireland during his brief trip.   He ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for and leaves behind a very unexpected legacy.   

I confess prior to seeing the title for this story, I had not heard of Louth, Ireland.  Thanks to the wonder of the Internet a bit of quick research revealed it to be a very ancient town that I would personally love to do a sightseeing visit of myself.   Thanks to one of my favorite Ipad apps, Tunein Radio I was able to listed to one of the popular radio stations there, Louth Meath FM 95.8 to help give me a feel for the area.

One of the several things I like so much about "Sightseeing in Louth" is the wonderful feel for a three generational household it gives us.   Smyth lets us see exactly how it feels to be a member of this family.   The story is told by a young woman in the family who is put in charge of making sure John sees everything and has an enjoyable time.   When she meets him for the first time he looks like just another tourist to her.   

The grandmother of the family asks him if he wants breakfast as soon as he gets to the house.   He tells her he ate on the plane but right after says this she puts a plate "made tall with rashers and eggs" in front of him.  (Google to the rescue for me, "rashers" is fried or boiled bacon).   The people in the family are relieved to see that John is quiet and polite, not like their conception of how most Americans acts, based largely on a TV shows like the California lifeguard show Baywatch and such.   This was a very funny and brilliant touch by Smyth.   Everybody in the family is fascinated by his American accent.   Patricia, the narrator's younger sister has done some research on the family history and John is very eager to learn about his family.  
"Consider Joining us"-

We soon learn everything is not perfect in this family.   The narrator is the "bad sister".  She caused Daddy to desert the family years ago because she was such a difficult child.   When the baby brother of the family died, it was somehow her fault she did not die instead.   Of course this  is her world view.   I have three teen age daughters so I am attuned to siblings issues between teenage girls and Smyth has caught this family drama perfectly.   

As she takes John around the area she learns what fascinates him by the pictures he takes.   She also reasons that the things he takes the most pictures of are  things not found back in his home town of Seattle.   Her and Patricia are even allowed off from school to go on the day trips with John, keeping him happy is the priority so he will give a good report on the family and Ireland  once he gets back to America.   

I do not want to tell much more of the plot of this story as it really is very exciting.   In just a few pages two shocking events occur, one is a pure tragedy and the other begins as a terrible event, I admit I did not see either of these events coming but once they were quite plausible and not at all forced.   The story ends on a very life affirming note.    
"Sightseeing in Louth" by Bernadette Smyth is exciting, the characters are interesting and well crafted, the standard of the prose is very high and the values exemplified in the story are of the highest sort.  

Here is her official biography

Bernadette M Smyth writes short stories and flash fiction. She won the
Fish One Page Story Prize in 2009 with 'In The Car.' She was a runner
up in the Fish short story category the following year with
'Sightseeing In Louth.' She has been runner up/ highly commended in a
number of competitions including the Francis Mac Manus short story
competition, The Bryan Mac Mahon Award, and the Bridport Prize. She is
a member of Dundalk Writers Group.

You can read "Sightseeing in Louth" here

This story is the intellectual property of Bernadette Smyth and is protected by international copyright laws.   

I totally endorse this story to any and all.   

Mel u

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This a brilliant story. Do you have a link for any more of Berndadette's work?