That Old Country Music
(CANONGATE, 192 PP, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • tel 020 7799 4064
This is Kevin Barry’s third collection of short stories, and shows him to be a modern master of the form. Time and again, Barry draws his reader into compelling narratives where great psychological detail and clever plotting are achieved with an absolute economy of language. His west-of-Ireland characters are often misfits and loners, and they say much about their lives through a small gesture, a telling memory, a misplaced word.
Perhaps the best story in the collection is a tale of longing that is in the finest tradition of Irish short-storytelling. James Joyce’s celebrated short story “Eveline” revolves around a 19-year-old Irish woman who abortively tries to escape the claustrophobia of her home life for a life with her lover in Argentina.