23 February 2012

The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney

A Taste from page 3:
A white fence protected his small yard and its long rectangles of grass. He had a yellow garden bench and rosebushes, pruned to austerity. Around one side of the house I counted one, two, three fruit trees. If, on a calendar, a tourist brochure, or a postcard, you saw such a scene, with the golden roof of thatched and smocked straw, a pleased smile would cross your mind.
The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney tells the story of Ben MacCarthy, by occupation a collector of Irish stories and lore. He travels the countryside, visiting the storytellers and recording the stories. As he travels he manages to also collect a poor, young girl fleeing her abusive family; a gunrunner for the IRA; and his much abused and beaten one-time wife. The supporting characters of this unlikely cast help fill in the rest of Ben's story.

The chapters are very short, often only a page or two long, which makes the reading go fast. I think I was up to about the third chapter when I realized I was hearing the story in my mind, being told in an Irish accent. The dialogue is not written in dialect but the feel of the words; the cadence of the story is written as if being told by a master storyteller. Although I was rather lost for the first few chapters, soon the story drew me in and I found myself transported to the troubled Irish countryside of 1956.

Despite the troubled times, and troubled people, that populate The Last Storyteller, it is not a dark or depressing novel. It was easy to become Ben's friend through the reading and adopt his accepting attitude. Sometimes he came off as a bit of a doormat but a loveable doormat, and he always managed to redeem himself. As Marian Killeen said "Ben had the greatest gift of loving." (pg 383) which, in turn, made him eminently loveable.

The Last Storyteller gives the reader an understanding of this turbulant time in Ireland's history all wrapped up in lovely adventure. A very worthwhile read.

Character Development         5
Editing                                      5
Sex                                            0
Violence                                  3 – not offensive or very explicit
Romance                                 4
Readability/Flow                     5


  1. Sounds like a really good read. I like what you've said about the feel of the language.

  2. If I hadn't already decided I wanted to read this book, the part of your review that states you began hearing the story in an Irish accent as you read, would have definitely convinced me since the Irish aspect of the story must be strong for that to happen. I adore Ireland and the Irish to the point that I'd love to move there one day and live the rest of my life in Ireland. Ben sounds like a wonderfully kind man. and this sounds like a captivating story!

  3. I have heard good things about this book, or his other books (I can't recall). But anyway, sounds good to me :)

  4. I've never heard of this book, but it sure sounds good. I don't have any experience reading Irish stories, so The Last Storyteller would be the perfect book to broaden my reading scope.

  5. The Last Storyteller was a very well written story about love and life. Frank Delaney's main character is very likable and real, and about as far from one-dimensional as one can be. Stil while the storytelling is grand and the language of the book is elegantly beautiful, my favorite thing would have to be the stories within the story that are told by either John Jacob Farrel O'Neill or Ben MacCarthy himself. They were among my favorite parts of the book, and probably the most elegant of all the writings.

    1. There is definitely something for everyone in this book. The stories in the book weren't my favorite but I agree - they were elegant.


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