A literary journey
Nostalgic Irish prose
Irish culture & folklore
Ulster-Scots short stories
The Accidental Wife by Orla McAlinden is collection of short stories that pumps good language and the theme of bad blood through a body of work that has all the comfort of a novel.
There’s the language of farming and it’s sharp and metaphorical in a way that only one familiar with the metal spike on a velvet-soft muzzle could imagine, “The bull’s nostrils slammed open on the instant and he sucked in a huge, shuddering breath, rasping like a stone caught under a tight-fitting door.” There’s Irish mixed with Scots mixed with Middle English, all churning into buttery swirls of Ulster dialect on the page. When the Facebook generation appear with their like, like like, like, the reader pines for a quare oul trip back to the solid old oak Omagh dialect of Dominic and Alo.
Then there are the expletives. Orla McAlinden excels at expletives and she sprays them like a deadly weapon charged poetry, rhythm, pathos and comedy. Jesus! The bastard. Jesus! Insufferable bollocks. Jesus! Useless bollocks! Christ! Pillock. Jesus. Shut up to fuck. For Christ’s sake! Jesus. Thon wee bastard. Fuck it to hell and back. Jesus. Fuck and shit and crap and damn. And if the Presbyterians aren’t flinching already, Jesus, Mary and Joseph comes with the birth of a child. “Charming dear,” says the Protestant witness to the scene. “Did you learn that from your little Catholic friend?”
Darkness, like bad blood, pervades the stories. “Let her beat herself,” the father of the groom says to his son on his wedding day, and each of the women we meet finds her own hard cudgel to do just that: the diet coke addict who wishes her husband dead; the society lady whose husband might as well be dead and the mother who lies bleeding from the wrath of her son. Then, there’s the Accidental Wife, the girl from the council estate who fell from grace as fast as she tumbled from Miss Enid Blyton to Miss Semi-detached in her husband’s estimation.
Dominic’s father warns him when he decides to marry the Accidental wife: “what’s in the bitch comes through in the pup,” and like father, like son, Dominic is a cantankerous oul blirt who spurts out vitriol about his own pups, “What did I do to be cursed with this ungrateful shower of bastards?” Dominic is a powerful character. Among the best of his interactions with human-kind are those comical moments with the Protestant nurse who cares for him in the nursing home. “You just ring yer bell if you need anything, love. Though I know you won’t, niver an easier man was minded in this ward, that’s what I always say about you.” Dominic’s retort: “Thanks be to Christ, leaving at last. Close the door after you, you throughother hallion…”
The Accidental Wife’s shortcoming is its brevity. There is a Stendhal-style novel in both language and blood to be found in the families of The Accidental Life. If Orla McAlinden could power up a great realist tome of a novel with the same might that she has created each short story in this book, she is capable of chiselling out a thousand acres of land on the literary map.
Angeline King is the author of A Belfast Tale and Snugville Street. Click the links below to learn more:
Snugville Street: "An enjoyable coming-of-age tale with a Belfast twist." (The Irish Times.) This heart-warming family drama is Angeline King's first novel. Set in post-conflict Belfast, the story begins in 2003 when Hannah learns that her father's return from prison will collide with her French exchange. A tapestry of love and loss is woven through humour and heart-ache as we move from Belfast to Paimpol in Brittany on a powerful journey of shame and redemption.
A Belfast Tale: “Uniquely, authentically and enjoyably Belfast" (Tony Macaulay, author of Paperboy.) Troubles and misplaced passions course through rivers and oceans in this beautiful transatlantic story and uniquely Belfast Tale
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Last Day of Summer Scheme
Uniquely Girls' Brigade
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
A dander around Larne
History & folklore
The Protestant in Irish Fiction
The Protestant in Irish fiction - the novels
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
The reality of being an author