Bernard MacLaverty’s collected stories span thirty years, the most recent ones published in 2006. Although the author refers in his introduction to the earlier writings as ‘stories of an inexperienced young man’, many of them are as accomplished as the latest and share their preoccupations, always artfully suggested and often apparent only, and suddenly, towards the end.
There is a great sadness in these quiet recordings of the ways in which people contrive to blight each other’s lives, not always deliberately. Clever, witty Hugo allows his young admirer to read his unpublished novel on condition that he will offer an honest opinion. The novel is dreadful; the reader cannot bear to say so, but believes he must keep his word or forever despise himself. Thus he wrecks Hugo’s confidence and thereby