The Librarian’s Cellar: The Accidental Wife by Orla McAlinden

A collection of short stories that won the Eludia Prize, all weaving to connect several generations of a family living through the turbulent times of Northern Ireland’s troubled history. It took me quite a while to finish this book, there was so much to absorb in each story. These narratives are succinct and deeply rooted in characterisation, connection to land and to identity. There is an energy in the writing, a defiance that emanates from the characters as we journey with them through their dilemmas. The tension seems palpable – the mother determined to drive her child to school under threat – a harsh reminder of the menace encountered for so long by the communities in the north. There are universal themes too – the young woman left pregnant and abandoned – and not just by the American GI she fell for. With undulating humour and poignancy, relationships are at the core of this collection, a sense of place hovering in the folds of each scenario, The Accidental Wife is altogether a compelling debut from this prize-winning author.

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