"...stories birling ..."
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
Scene from Snugville Street
The Wedding Wisp
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
History & folklore
Language Blog I
Language Blog II
Language Blog III
Language Blog IV
The linguist behind Ulster Scots.
Kailyard & Dusty Bluebells
Jean Park of Ballygally
Fiddles and Melodeons
Martha Taylor's diary
Jean McCullagh at 104
Ballymena & the McConnells
Arms in Irish Dancing
Catholics & Protestants in Irish dancing
Irish Dancing: The Festival Story
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction II
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
An author in Wonderland
Dancing in Victorian Ulster
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School
Lesley Allen & Helen Nicholl