Frank's Reviews > Everything in This Country Must

Everything in This Country Must by Colum McCann
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's review
Apr 25, 2011

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bookshelves: irish-authors

Not quite up to the standard of Let the Great World Spin, but these are much different stories on a different scale.

The two short stories and novella in this collection all revolve around “the Troubles” in the North of Ireland which haunted generations of Irish people on both sides of the border as well as in Britain for decades. Significantly, none of the main characters are directly involved in direct conflict. In the first, titular, story a Catholic farmer and his daughter receive unwanted help from a group of British soldiers. The second story, “Wood”, details a mother and son’s efforts to produce partisan parade articles against a background of a family’s financial struggles with a bed-ridden father.

The novella—”Hunger”—is set in the West of Ireland: an adolescent and his mother escape the Troubles in Derry. Their connexion is more than casual: the boy’s uncle—brother of his late father and brother-in-law of his widowed mother—is an IRA prisoner in the infamous H-Block of the Maze prison. He’s one of the hunger strikers, destined to die for the “cause”, pressing for the right to be treated as a political prisoner, a prisoner of war, and not as a common criminal. How this tiny family is affected by events beyond their control.

These stories address a different Ireland, one now happily—hopefully—in the past. Consistent amongst them is the relationship of an adolescent with their single-parent and the “collateral damage” inflicted by the political events of the wider world on the small and intimate relationships between parents and children.

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