Walk the Blue Fields, By Claire Keegan

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The Independent Culture

Keegan's literary allegiance is signalled in the first story in this collection, when we find the main character reading Chekhov. Like Chekhov, Keegan has the ability to sum up a life, or a significant chunk of one, in apparently trivial, quotidian events. In the title story, a priest is tormented by having to officiate at a marriage. Later, he meets an unlikely counterpart in a Chinese healer, and experiences a kind of epiphany. It sounds simple in summary, but it's the careful arrangement of events which gives the story its power.

"The Forester's Daughter" recounts the slow tragedy of a failed marriage. Keegan writes through every character – including the dog – with a clear-sighted sympathy for them all. There is as much food for thought here as in many a novel.

All the stories are set in rural Ireland. They tell of harsh, lonely lives, alleviated by drink or dreams, in a voice that is lyrical, thoughtful, but with a thick, dark strain of melancholy running through it.