Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

Stay by Aislinn Hunter

Filed under: Book Reviews,General Fiction,Irish — The Writer @ 12:55 pm
Stay Book Cover Stay
Aislinn Hunter
Anchor Books

What is it about Ireland that inspires people to write? The jacket sleeve says that Ontario-born Aislinn Hunter lived in Dublin “for a few years” before returning home to base herself in Vancouver. She has already published a book of short stories and two of poetry and this, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2003. It’s easy to see why. They say write what you know, and Hunter seems to have cashed in on her time spent in Ireland by using it as the perfect setting for a Canadian-flavoured love story.

Abbey is a young Canadian hiding out in a village near Galway. On the run from her family and her past, she falls for Dermot, a drink-sodden academic old enough to be her father. The book tracks their relationship, and gradually unveils Abbey’s past, against the backdrop of an archaeological dig in which a mysterious “bog person” is exhumed. The links between plot and sub-plot are clear as is the overall theme of the book: both characters must face the skeletons in their own closets if they are going to make the relationship work.

Hunter brings an outsider’s eye to bear on the changes that are taking place in modern Ireland and much of the strength of Stay lies in her observations, but for an Irish reader her use of words like sidewalk, stucco and lot in the main narrative (when the voice is not that of the Canadian central character) and references to fall instead of autumn and “a café on O’Connell”, repeatedly jar.

This could be explained away by making the presumption that it is really a book for Canadian or American readers – indeed a quote at the start “mo ghrá thú” is translated for non-Irish speakers as “‘I love you,’ in Gaelic”. But contradictorily Hunter also uses terms like Garda, TG4, RTE and Trinity without any real context to explain them and in a manner that is likely to leave readers unfamiliar with Ireland stumped. There is also plenty of pleasant but ultimately disposable description, which reads like unnecessary filler. The question, in both cases, is where was her editor?

Hunter is currently working on another novel and, although I suspect she may be more of a poet than a prose writer, Stay is a promising indicator of her potential. Her strength lies in her ability to capture the atmosphere of a moment and pin down telling details. She has caught my attention, but her debut stumbled a few too many times en route to its inevitable conclusion to win me over entirely. The Writer

Aislinn Hunter awards Stay was shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award and listed as one of the best books of the year by the Globe and Mail Into The Early Hours (2001) won the Gerald Lampert Award for Best First Book of Poetry and was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. What’s Left Us, a short story collection was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award and won Silver in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards

June 2005


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress