Saturday, October 22, 2011

Somewhere in Minnesota and Other Stories

In this collection of tales by Órfhlaith Foyle, we meet a cast of disparate characters, that at first glance appear to have little, if anything, in common yet it doesn’t take long to realise that they all share one trait, that being - in one way or another - each and everyone of them is broken. These are individuals that initially appear fine, even normal. You or they would instigate a conversation, which would follow along standard lines, you’d possibly discuss the weather, the subject’s not important – but at some point the fracture would reveal itself, it may not even be that first meet, but a moment will occur and you will realise that something is not right, that whatever humanity they have, in one way or another has been damaged.

There are nineteen stories in this collection, and from the very first one, you are fascinated, and by this I mean in it’s old sense* - to render motionless, as with a fixed stare or by arousing terror or awe - and yet you are caught wanting to know more, wanting  to follow the tale to its conclusion. In one of the tales - Two Vampires, we watch a pair of male vampires sitting in a cafe stalking their next prey….

somewhere in Minnesota“Robert loves the death he forces into humans. He loves how their skin tears under his teeth and their attempts at screaming turn to nothing in his ears. He has stopped remembering anything of his life before, yet in the beginning, like Frances, he presumed he could not forget. He had expected to remember how the smell of fresh bread filled a morning or how he always longed to be clean…… but he forgot it all.
Now he appreciates the distance between him and humans. Their lives are alien, only their blood  means anything. Robert had once tried to explain it to Francis who did not listen, not because he was not interested, but because his hatred for Robert – although finally vague after all these years together – remained inside him still.”

We follow this pair, who like some old couple who now  loathe each other and yet, whether through necessity or through a habit long devoid of reason,  are still together as they isolate and then feed on their chosen prey.

In another of the tales -  The secret life of Madame Defarge, we listen in on the thoughts of a Tricoteuse*. She is an old  woman sitting at the foot of the guillotine, knitting and howling her hatred  at all those walking that final path. This is one of those tales that changes your perspective by offering a different viewpoint on a scene we’ve probably seen a thousand times, in literature and film, via the tales of Dickens, Orczy, Sabatini or France* - although here, by focusing on the old woman, the writer has created a fantastic tale that will revolt and yet… is the tale for your delectation*

Órfhlaith Foyle was born in Africa (Nigeria) to Irish missionary parents, she also lived in Kenya and Malawi, all of which have fed into her wonderful writing. Later she lived in Australia, France, Russia, Israel and taught in London's East End for two years  before settling in Galway, Ireland, working as a freelance journalist and editing a community magazine. She has been published in The Shop, The Stinging Fly, The Burning Bush, Markings and Galway Now. As well as this collection of short stories, she has written a collection of poetry and short stories, and a novel  . At the moment she’s working on a second novel. Her cited influences include Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Mansfield, Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson. She has a Bachelor in Humanities, and has been published in a number of literary journals.

Belios, Lilliput Press, 2005 (Novel)
Revenge, Arlen House, 2005 (Short Stories & Poetry)
Red Riding Hood's Dilemma, Arlen House, 2009 (Poetry)

*from Latin fascināre, from fascinum a bewitching
*Tricoteuse,literally translates from the French as a (feminine) knitter or knitting device. The term is most often used in its historical sense as a name for the women who frequented the public executions in Paris during the French Revolution.
*Charles Dickens ( Tale of Two Cities), Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Rafael Sabatini(Scaramouche ) or Anatole France (The Gods Are Athirst).

*Here is the tale for your delectation – I would like to thank Mel U from The Reading Life, for acting as a go between between myself and the writer and for providing the information relating to the link to the The secret life of Madame Defarge story, and would also send my fondest regards and thanks to the writer in allowing me to read her fascinating collection of stories. This collection is to be published by Arlen House this year (2011), and is out on the 15th November, although you can pre order via the usual places and I would thoroughly recommend you to get your hands on a copy.

Orfhlaith Foyle

Writer Interview: Órfhlaith Foyle

Women Rule Writer Interview
The Reading Life(Somewhere in Minnesota)
syracuse university press.


Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Dear Parrish Lantern,
Thank you for reviewing 'Somewhere in Minnesota'. It was a lovely surprise to read it this afternoon.Thank you for your words about my work and I am happy that you have enjoyed reading my stories. My fondest regards back to you.
Orfhlaith Foyle

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Hmmm. I've not heard of this author, and I wouldn't know where to begin on pronouncing her name. But this book sounds great and I thank you for putting it on my radar.

@parridhlantern said...

Hello Órfhlaith, Thanks for your kind regards & I hope with this post I have been able to express the enjoyment & delight I got out of reading this collection of tales.

Hi As the Crowe Flies and Reads
Órfhlaith is pronounced "Orla" and it is a great collection of stories, if you've not checked out the link to - The secret life of Madame Defarge, I would recommend you do so.

Mel u said...

"These are individuals that initially appear fine, even normal. You or they would instigate a conversation, which would follow along standard lines, you’d possibly discuss the weather, the subject’s not important – but at some point the fracture would reveal itself, it may not even be that first meet, but a moment will occur and you will realise that something is not right, that whatever humanity they have, in one way or another has been damaged."

I think it might also be that when we no longer objective others we see that we all have had our humanity damaged in one way or another-

I enjoyed reliving these stories in your very well done review

this is a powerful collection of stories from a writer I really think will rise to true prominence

Unknown said...

Sound like another interesting collection (although I'm not that keen on vampires!).

Is it just me, or are short stories making a comeback? There seem to have been a lot of collections around recently. Currently in the middle of Clemens Meyer's 'All the Lights' myself...

gina said...

Love the tricoteuse trivia.

I'll have to see if this is available in the US.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Mel, totally in agreement with you, with reference to this authors writing career.I personally want to check out more of her poetry soon.

Hi Tony, only one of the tales concerns vampires & even that's not the point of the tale, just the way it's grounded.Yes I think your right about short stories, flash fiction etc.

Hi Gina, with your love of Crafts such as knitting and you being a Francophile I'm not surprised you liked that. As to it being available in the USA,I contacted the author & she thinks it's available via but will let me know for sure & I will pass it on.

Mel u said...

I found Somewhere in Minnesota listed at The Book Depository-

Parrish Lantern-I am glad we both had the pleasure of reading her work-

Tom Cunliffe said...

Great - the author replied to you. That's always rewarding isn't it. I read the story you linked to - slightly macabre but well done "the head like a ripe plum".

Sounds like a good read all round, but I'm not usually a great one for short stories

Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Hello Parrish,

I now have a website and I mention your blog....however there has been a slight mash up of you and The Reading Life!
It'll will be corrected, don't worry.
Órfhlaith Foyle

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Órfhlaith, no problem, cant't think of a better site to be mashed with. Will add your new site to the info list.
PS,Took a look at the new site & liking how it looks.

Mel u said...

Orfhlaith Foyle-actually I would be very flattered to be confused with Parrish Lantern's wonderful site.

Kinna said...

These stories sound most intriguing. I will be reading the one you linked to then proceed to find the collection. Thanks for the review

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Kinna, it's well worth checking out, also for more information check out Mel's post on this.