It is springtime, and two outcasts -- a man ignored, even shunned by his village, and the one-eyed dog he takes into his quiet, tightly shuttered life -- find each other, by accident or fate, and forge an unlikely connection. Read more...
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It is springtime, and two outcasts -- a man ignored, even shunned by his village, and the one-eyed dog he takes into his quiet, tightly shuttered life -- find each other, by accident or fate, and forge an unlikely connection. As their friendship grows, their small, seaside town suddenly takes note of them, falsely perceiving menace where there is only mishap; the unlikely duo must take to the road. Gorgeously written in poetic and mesmerizing prose, Spill Simmer Falter Wither has already garnered wild support in its native Ireland, where the Irish Times pointed to Baume's "astonishing power with language" and praised it as "a novel bursting with brio, braggadocio and bite." It is also a moving depiction of how -- over the four seasons echoed in the title -- a relationship between fellow damaged creatures can bring them both comfort. One of those rare stories that utterly, completely imagines its way into a life most of us would never see, it transforms us not only in our understanding of the world, but also of ourselves.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-11
- Reviewer: Staff
A solitary misfit opens up to his one-eyed dog in this debut novel. Ray describes himself as old (he's 57), shabbily dressed, and sketchily bearded, pitching and clomping when he walks. He first sees the dog in an animal shelter advertisement: a grisly photo of a mangled canine face. The kennel keeper says the dog attacks other dogs; its scars suggest it was used for badger hunting. Ray is familiar with abuse: his father, understanding Ray is "not right-minded," raised him in confined isolation. Ray reads, drives, and knows he's not a regular person. Following his father's death, he remains in his father's house alone until he adopts the dog he calls One Eye. When One Eye attacks another dog, incurring the owner's wrath, Ray takes One Eye on the road, traveling from one Irish village to another, sleeping in the car. By the time they return home, they have spent a year together, and their friendship is fixed. Baume's storytelling can be indirect. She never mentions Ray's name, only that he's named for a sunbeam or a sand shark. Nor does she specify Ray's impairment. As a narrator, he shows observation skills, appreciation for landscape, and awareness of fear and sadness. For One Eye, he's full of empathy. Baume's debut is notable for its rhythmic language, sensory imagery (especially visuals and smells), and second-person narrative directed at an animal. She is brutal detailing brutality, lyrical contemplating land and sea, and at her best evoking the connection between man and dog. (Mar.)
Fresh stories from the Emerald Isle
March is a lucky month for readers who love Ireland—a country with a rich narrative tradition, where stories and poems are considered everyday currency. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we’re spotlighting three new titles that prove the country’s memorable characters and storytelling legacy live on.
AN ENDURING LEGACY
Timothy Egan, meticulous historian and crackerjack story-teller, offers a rousing biography of renegade leader Thomas Francis Meagher in The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero.
Meagher, a native of Waterford, Ireland, who fought for the Union in the American Civil War, has a personal history of mythical proportions. At the age of 25, he spearheaded an unsuccessful revolt against the British and was exiled to a penal colony in Tasmania. Less than a year later, he resurfaced in New York, where he was celebrated as a hero, and he went on to command the Irish Brigade—a rag-tag crew of immigrants and outlaws—in some of the Civil War’s most cutthroat conflicts. He later served as territorial governor of Montana. Egan sheds new light on the indomitable Irishman’s final days in this fascinating and far-flung yarn.
A self-described “lapsed” Irish American, Egan—winner of the National Book Award for his 2007 chronicle of the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time—writes in a spirited style that’s perfectly matched to Meagher’s remarkable life.
A NEW VOICE
Already a literary sensation overseas, Sara Baume, winner of the 2015 Hennessy New Irish Writer Award, delivers a remarkably accomplished debut in Spill Simmer Falter Wither, a captivating novel that features a man-redeemed-by-dog plotline. The book is narrated by an outsider named Ray, who, at the age of 57—“too old for starting over, too young for giving up”—is spurned by his neighbors after his father dies. Ray is something of a curmudgeon, and when he befriends a scruffy one-eyed terrier, he finds unexpected fulfillment in the relationship. But an unfortunate incident forces Ray to pull up roots and drift—canine by his side, of course. The novel chronicles a year in the life of the improbable pair, four seasons spent on the road that are rich with incident and gorgeously depicted through Baume’s precise, lapidary prose.
The 31-year-old author, who lives in Cork with two dogs of her own, displays wisdom beyond her years in this compassionate tale.
IRRESISTABLE IRISH YARNS
A native of County Dublin and a longtime columnist for The Irish Times, Maeve Binchy was the author of more than 20 bestsellers, including the classic novel Circle of Friends (1990). Binchy, who died in 2012, had a heartfelt, unaffected storytelling style that made her a favorite at home and abroad. Her many fans will cheer the appearance of A Few of the Girls, a collection of 36 stories never published before in the United States. Exploring the complex nature of relationships in the melodic prose that became her trademark, Binchy charts the dynamics of romance, the politics of family and the stipulations of friendship. When it comes to capturing the caprices of the human heart, she’s unbeatable. Readers will recognize themselves in her nuanced portrayals of women and men whose goals and regrets, dreams and disappointments never feel less than true-to-life. There’s no better antidote to a raw March evening than a dose of vintage Binchy.