Within The Ribbons by Frank Manley - review by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby

God With The Grits

Within The Ribbons


Barrie & Jenkins 224pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

The dust jacket of Within the Ribbons promises that we will find the spirit of Flannery O’Connor hovering over this book’s nine stories, and Manley’s potent combination of the South and religion makes any other comparison very difficult. Manley has different strengths, of which more later, but he shares an interesting weakness with O’Connor, a weakness stemming directly from their concentration on faith and redemption. O’Connor once wrote that ‘I can’t allow any of my characters ... to stop in some half-way position. This doubtless comes of a Catholic education and a Catholic sense of history – everything works towards its true end or away from it, everything is ultimately saved or lost.’

It is a similar refusal to settle for an unresolved balance at the end of his stories that robs Manley of a variation of rhythm. This is crucial in a collection of short fiction. If it is lacking, even stories with a broad range of themes and characters begin to

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