Blank Pages, Bernard MacLaverty ( hardback, August 2021)
£14.99The extraordinary new story collection from one of Ireland's greatest writers and bestselling author of Midwinter Break. Bernard MacLaverty is a consummately gifted short-story writer and novelist whose work - like that of John McGahern, William Trevor, Edna O'Brien or Colm Toibin - is deceptively simple on the surface, but carries a turbulent undertow. Everywhere, the dark currents of violence, persecution and regret pull at his subject matter: family love, the making of art, Catholicism, the Troubles and, latterly, ageing.
Blank Pages is a collection of twelve extraordinary new stories that show the emotional range of a master. 'Blackthorns', for instance, tells of a poor out-of-work Catholic man who falls gravely ill in the sectarian Northern Ireland of 1942 but is brought back from the brink by an unlikely saviour. The most recently written story here is the harrowing but transcendent 'The End of Days', which imagines the last moments in the life of painter Egon Schiele, watching his wife dying of Spanish flu - the world's worst pandemic, until now.
Much of what MacLaverty writes is an amalgam of sadness and joy, of circumlocution and directness. He never wastes words but neither does he ever forget to make them sing. Each story he writes creates a universe.