When All Is Said is the story basically of one man, Maurice Hannigan, he is 84 years old and over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the local hotel, the Rainford House.
The hotel is one of two in the small rural Irish town and on this night they are hosting the County Sports Awards. A coup for the hotel and the town which has everyone in on edge to ensure it all goes well. The hotel is also on high alert because an anonymous VIP has booked their main suite, but more on that later.
This is the backdrop of the story as the staff rush about making sure all is good whilst calmly Maurice sits at the bar that evening as he often does. However, on this evening he begins to look back on his life and orders the first of his five drinks. This is a night he has been planning for two years.
With each drink he toasts a person important to him: his older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs.
Why Did I like This Book?
Well I suppose first and foremost I really like Anne’s writing style. She builds the characters beautifully and it is easy to picture the scene in the hotel where Maurice is sitting calmly at the bar whilst everyone around him are rushing about preparing for the awards. I think she also develops the story line very well, moving back and forth through his life yet still anchoring the story firmly in the hotel and the bar.
I immediately got into the book and engaged with the characters. At many times I felt like I was sitting at the bar with Maurice listening to him reminisce. As Anne develops the story, she pulls you into it so that you want to know why Maurice is sorry or angry or sad, you want to know what happen to his relationship with these important people for him to feel this way. You know there is background to all the relationships and Anne’s way of telling the story makes you want to know more.
These were the five people who have meant the most to him, people he loved and, in the end, lost. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy that’s been kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man is powerfully and poignantly laid bare. This is a tale of decisions taken out of anger and bitterness and sometimes through misunderstandings and the impact they have on lives.
The opening paragraph is great. Maurice starts off the story by saying “Is it me or are the bar stools in this place getting lower? Perhaps it’s the shrinking. Eighty-four years can do that to a man, that and hairy ears.” These are his first words to his son who is now living in America with his own wife and children. The dialogue continues throughout the book like that, a joy to read.
The book is heart breaking and warm all at the same time. When I finished the book, I just put it down and cried. I think I would defy anyone to read the last chapter and not cry.
There is humour in the book for instance there’s great dialogue between Maurice and the barmaid. As he sits there, he spends quite a bit of time flirting with her, Svetlana. Although she does struggle with his Irish humour.
Why might you buy it
You’ll adore reading this book if you like books with strong story lines, stories with powerful narrators, a book that is thought provoking, a book that’s an emotional read than this is the book for you.
It does not read like the writing of a debut novelist, very self-assured and I think well edited. Just my view but I would put it up there with the best of the great Irish novels of recent times.
You’ll also have to buy the book to find out about the anonymous VIP and who exactly has booked that suite for the night. I don’t want to ruin the story for you.
And I am sure that once you’ve read it you will put it in the hands of someone and say “oh you must read this, it’s amazing”. I am going to be doing that a lot in the coming year because I believe this is going to be one of the major novels of 2019.