Description: At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual -though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.
Well what can I say? It’s a long time since I was just utterly blown away by a book.
As we join Maurice sitting in a bar, you can tell he is pre-occupied by a task that he must complete that night. We are taken back through his life and the writing immediately sweeps us into his life-story.
As he starts off raising a toast to his older brother Tony, I was captured by the powerful descriptions of his childhood home, his school and the family life he was a part of. The bond he had with Tony is remarkable. Such a lovely deep brotherly connection that you can’t help but be moved by. Tony was his champion, his protector and his world.
The second toast is to his daughter Molly and was the most emotive for me and completely broke my heart. Without giving too much away, the heartbreak of the difficult journey to conceiving for him and his wife was explored vividly as well as the tragedy they face afterwards. It was really interesting to hear the man’s side of the story in that journey, as it’s not something we get to hear often.
His words when they were on the path of trying to conceive were heartbreaking- “I didn’t even want to hear my own pain, let alone face up to hers… It sat on my shoulder, never letting me forget I’d failed”.
The third toast to his sister-in-law Noreen is really dramatic and has a lot to do with Maurice’s ongoing feud with the “Dollard” family. It covers the history of his first meeting with the in-laws and again had some heart-rending moments that really stood out.
The fourth toast is to his son Kevin who is actually the person Maurice is addressing throughout the book. This section covers the latter years of the family history and how they deal with the grief of Sadie’s passing.
The final toast is to his wife Sadie. We learn very early on that she has passed. The love between them is lovely and so pure- it was his lifeline. He is so unashamedly frank about how she sustained him, and how difficult it is now without her.
As you are reading this book you feel as if Maurice is sitting right beside you, weaving this magic storytelling that completely captivates you. I was so immersed in this story as I read it and I think Anne has done such a brilliant job of characterisation. The descriptive writing of their life in Ireland is so very wonderful. It captured me from the first to the last page and I was a little bereft when it ended.
Maurice is a character that will stay with me for a long time. In his lifetime he shows bravery, love, sacrifice, hard- work and determination. He doesn’t always get things right but he lives a remarkable life and has a lot to show for it.
I can safely say, if you are to pick up this book, you really won’t regret it. It’s a magnificent debut from Anne and I look forward to reading more of her writing.
“When All is Said” is published by Sceptre (a ‘Hodder books’ imprint) on the 24th of this month and more details are here.
Until next time,