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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Real Woman by Orla McAlinden: shortlisted for Short Story of the Year - 2019

I first encountered the work of  Orla McAlinden in September of last year when I read her novel The Flight of the Wren.  Everyone who has read this book loved it, for sure I did.  Here are my thoughts 

"No other, of the numerous  works of fiction and nonfiction I 
have read on the Irish Famine Years (1845 to 1849) comes as close to capturing the lived experience of the Irish people than Orla McAliden’s darkly beautiful debut novel, The Flight of the Wren."

The Flight of the Wren is just an amazing book.  It would make a great movie. 

The opening lines of “A Real Woman” would most likely outrage the devoutly Catholic population of the Phillipines:

“Everyone knows that Catholic priests are raving, slavering drunkards – even the teetotal ones – so you carefully set your whiskey tumbler down behind a large photograph of Pope Francis on the mantelpiece before you answer the front door of the parochial house. You take a moment to adjust the angle of the cheap gilt frame to hide your well-watered Powers. His Holiness doesn’t seem to mind; his expression doesn’t change. His benign smile says Never mind, my child. If I had to serve in that shithole parish of yours, I’d have a snifter myself.”

Told very interestingly in the third person, a young man has come to see the priest.  Now days such a visit is uncommon.  “Lads of this young man’s vintage who darken the church door are as rare as hen’s teeth, so much so that you personally know every one of them and all belonging to them. Apart from funerals, this fella probably hasn’t been in a church since the Passing Out Parade – or the Sacrament of Confirmation, as the school teachers still call it. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad lad, of course.”

The lad does have a reason for the visit.  He is getting married and his fiance has told him he must take confession and get a letter from the priest certifying this before the marriage.

I totally don’t want to spoil the plot other than to say the confession shocks the priest to his core and did a job on me also.  For sure this story ranks among the great Irish priest stories along with those of Frank O’Connor.

“Orla McAlinden
Kildare, Ireland
Award-winning Irish writer, inspired by Ireland's complex and difficult history.

The Flight of the Wren, Published 2018 winner of the CD Lewis award and the Greenbean Novel Fair. Available at

The Accidental Wife, winner the Eludia Award, 2014. 
Available on Kindle and paperback also at 

Contains the Irish Book Awards Short Story of the Year 2016” 


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