"TREADING THE UNEVEN ROAD" by Lorna Brown

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 Under: Book Reviews


Lorna is a lovely author, with a calm, easy tone, which makes you feel relaxed and deeply involved at the same time.  Her prose is delightful and you can almost hear the soft lull of her voice in it.  Her short tales, about little more than slices in the lives of ordinary, working class folk in a variety of Irish locales, are bleak, sombre and thick with melancholy, yet warm and comforting simultaneously.  Told from the different viewpoints of a various range of characters, there is yet something in every one of them for the reader to relate to; Lorna engages you in the same way that home does, for better or worse.

Though many of the characters live in different towns, I did get the impression that most of the stories are set in the same semi-rural council estate town on the Sligo road, though the coast, Dublin and London are all featured, too.  Some of these tales are connected – perhaps all of them, in a way, even if only their morose tone.  This is by no means a cheerful read; it tends to focus certainly on the unhappy aspects of life, particularly separation, death and wasted potential.  A good example of this, and perhaps a metaphor for the book as a whole, is found in the lines “...’where the magic happened’  She took him there and so their love affair began...” which is followed in the very next sentence by “When it ended she tried to recall details...”; as if hope of happiness is offered for the briefest of moments, before being immediately yanked away in resistance.

Yet, even though this may be a little bleak for my personal tastes, Lorna is a comforting and endearing writer, and a good storyteller, with a unique voice.  The two I found most intriguing, yet perhaps sadder in some ways, involve gay characters, in a setting where the Church seems very much a part of everyone’s life – I would probably say that these two stories (“The Lady on the Bridge” and “Amends”) were my favourites.  With the exception of the dark and gripping “Blackbirds”, the others did feel a little to me as if they were all fusing together, although I acknowledge there may have been some intent here, on Lorna’s part.  This said, happily, “Treading the Uneven Road” does end on a rather cosy, pleasing note, with a tale about an uncle who fascinates his wide-eyed nephew with fantastic stories, and I enjoyed the way Lorna finally rounds the whole book up in a full circle at the end.

Lorna is an author of superb quality, with a natural talent for warmly embracing her reader in an emotionally sad hug, and all in all, a genuine pleasure to read.  I very much enjoyed reading her stories, and would like to see more from her.

In : Book Reviews 


Tags: lorna-brown  short-stories  emotional  slice-of-life  drama  irish  rural  fiction 
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