Short Story Review: Wistful England by Kevin Barry

Story Title: ‘Wistful England’ by Kevin Barry
Collection/Anthology?: Dark Lies the Island (Jonathan Cape)
Date Read: 15th March 2012
Briefly: Displaced and depressed, fibre optic cable layer Daniel wanders through his new life in London, in a continual state of melancholy. He sees his ex girlfriend Alicia everywhere, in the faces of the women that pass him. He clearly misses her desperately, but he’s not going back to Ireland.
Afterthoughts: I rather enjoyed this story. It has something of the melancholic mood of a Chekhov tale to it, and as always it’s exquisitely penned. I actually want to share a tiny sample for those who have yet to bear witness to the glory of Barry, because when I first read the following extract I saw in it everything that illustrates perfectly, the sheer quality and magnificence of Barry’s prose. Read this, and then try to tell that you don’t feel the power of the master writer:

He walked with the weed back to the terrace house. The Excelsior lager was busily washing down the gullies of the Connemara men a feed of chips and saveloys from the homicidal takeaway on the corner – someone had managed to walk. He had at this hour presumed the burp odour of low-grade meat products on the air, but even so it was a trial, and he sat among it feeling dickless and wild. The only way not to smell the saveloys was to eat one and quickly he succumbed.

“I’m after a run-in with a Jamaican bird,’ he said. ‘She had some arse on her now.’

The Connemara men ignored him. They watched a quiz show as they ate. There was heavy breathing in the room between mouthfuls, much too heavy for the ages of these men. Soon the heavy fug of the marijuana was laid atop the meat odour and also there was the sour tang of the Excelsior that was warming at the bottom of tins.’

Rating: ★★★½☆

This story was read as part of a review of Kevin Barry’s latest short story collection, Dark Lies the Island. If you want to find out more about the book, or you want to read other reviews from this collection, then I invite you to pop along to my forethoughts post for this title. I also invite you to take a trip over to the publisher page for this title.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).