The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney
Random House, February 7, 2012
400 pages, Hardcover
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:
In the trilogy’s conclusion (following THE MATCHMAKER OF KENMARE and VENETIA KELLY’S TRAVELING SHOW), the path to true happiness does not run smoothly for Ben: lost love Venetia is now married to a brutal but popular man, and Ben finds himself entangled with an IRA gun-runner against the backdrop of their campaign along the Irish Border.
The 1950s was a period in which Ireland was impoverished—financially, emotionally, and intellectually—and national survival was no sure thing. It was an era of Irish history that laid the groundwork for the nation’s current outlook—and as Ben fights to recapture his halcyon days with Venetia, he must finally reconcile his violent, flawed past with his hopes for the future.
Brimming with fascinating historical intrigue and legendary love, The Last Storyteller is an unforgettable novel as richly textured and inspiring as Ireland itself.
There is something about the prose of Frank Delaney that makes me feel like a dunce. It flows so effortlessly, but spews intelligence with a simple phrase. Dripping with wisdom. And I hate how some authors get lauded with the overused phrases of ‘lyrical prose’ or something like that.. but here it is warranted again. Frank Delaney writes with passion, and his gift with words is unlike any other I have known. Granted, there are times I am wondering what the third layer is to some of his words, as it takes me awhile to catch up, but this series about Ben MacCarthy and the storytelling of Ireland has me sold on Frank Delaney (in case you hadn’t noticed).
Where I would say:
“The sun came out. They kissed.”
Frank would say:
“A lemon-colored light from the watery sun ran like a child across the bogland. Somewhere in that calm after the storm, Jimmy Bermingham leaned across and kissed Elma Sloane, and she made no move away.”
(Frank and I are indeed on an imaginary first name basis because I said so, and I managed to snag an autographed copy. I feel extra special, even though I am sure there were fifty being speed autographed, but no matter.. because you will feel extra special too if you win one in the giveaway!)
Ben MacCarthy is the traveling Irishman scouring the countryside for stories and storytellers, and his lost wife. There are several books featuring Ben, one was Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, which I hadn’t read yet, and the last was The Matchmaker of Kenmare which I read and thus fell in love with Ireland and Frank (review).. and which is why I jumped at the chance to read this next installment, The Last Storyteller. There are a myriad of things going on here with stories in a myth of a story, but the magic of it all is the first person narrative of Ben MacCarthy. And since there is a bit of a plot line to the three books that ties them all together, I don’t want to spoil much for you because I know you are going to go out and get all of the books as soon as you are done reading this review. (You can read more about all of his books on Frank’s site.) Although I had jumped right into the series with The Matchmaker of Kenmare, I would definitely recommend reading one of the previous books before starting with this newest book The Last Storyteller. The way this narrative is put together is really Ben coining a memoir of sorts to his children and as he describes the things that are occurring around him, the reader is slowly peeling off layers of the character of Ben, and there would be a lot more appreciation of Ben if you could see what he went through during the previous novels.
Ben grows throughout the novels, and this installment is the fruition of all the stories combined and how he translates the lessons learned from his treasures of folklore. After twenty-five years of being haunted by his wife’s disappearance, with the cause and reaction being a slowly unfurling theme throughout all of these novels, the reader is finally gifted with a stunning masterpiece of a conclusion.
One of Frank’s storytellers teaches us that a story’s form must have the three A’s: Appetite, Authority, and Address. Give the listeners appetite for the story. Storyteller must have authority over the story in all ways. And address the listener as the listener becomes the slave to the story. (Mildly put.) Frank Delaney has captured that with his story of Ben MacCarthy, but in a much more eloquent way.
Powerful, emotive, and full of Irish grit, The Last Storyteller weaves the lives of the Irish unlike any tale, as the narrator pulls us in and out of story after story as we get a sense of the land of the Irish that isn’t just whimsical leprechauns and glittery rainbows. Poverty, politics, violence, love and desperation are just some of the components, with the reality of human indignities at the forefront. I’ve enjoyed this so much I have already bought Delaney’s earlier work, simply titled Ireland.
Are you ready for some fabulous folklore? If you think you would enjoy some old fashioned stories of Ireland, you can enter the giveaway for an autographed copy of The Last Storyteller. Enter here by leaving a comment with your email address, or find the specific giveaway post on Facebook under the page for Burton Book Review and ‘like’ it there. Open to the USA only, and I’ll close the giveaway when I remember to =)