Nuala Ní­ Chonchúir

First Sentence: Twice a year they come here, to her home-place.

As this is a collection of short stories, and not a novel, I have decided to pick my favourite story and give it the ‘first sentence last sentence’ treatment. The above sentence is from ‘Night Fishing’ which appears just after the halfway mark in the book. It’s not even six pages long but it definitely packs a punch and is the one story I kept on thinking about afterwards. In fact most of the stories here are quite short [well, obviously] and yet they all contain so much. The writing is extraordinarily varied with a mixture of first, second and third person narrators; young, old, male and female. Here’s an example of a perfectly realised teenage boy’s voice:

Magda did different versions of me too: back views, side views, full-frontals. They were deadly – I looked like me, but not like myself, if you know what I mean. I was real proud of the painting and it was a good buzz, being at Magda’s, eating her weird cheese and stuff, and drinking coffee and yapping.

( Jackson and Jerusalem ).

These stories are teeming with memorable passages just like that one; here’s a brilliant depiction of a hangover:

I fumble in my head for her name; my throat is clotted with night-old wine and my brain swings in its cave, tharump tharump tharump.

( The Woman in the Waves )

Brilliant. I’d recommend these stories to anyone who enjoys fine writing.

* * * *

Last Sentence: ‘They never are, are they?’ she whispers, and lifting his fingers to her mouth, she kisses them, one by one.’

Last Sentence explained: This is a story about Sheila, an Irish girl, and Henri, her French husband. As the first sentence explains, they visit Ireland twice a year to stay with her family. We quickly learn that on these brief trips, Henri enjoys taking long drives and walks alone in remote places. We then learn he has taken up fishing; or more specifically Night Fishing, which involves even longer absences. As a reader we are suspicious, and when we see Henri in a pub instead of fishing we assume he is cheating on Sheila. In fact, the truth is even more sinister as Henri is killing the girls he meets, and we get the impression that this is something of a habit. On his return from ‘Night Fishing’ Sheila asks if he caught anything, to which he replies ‘ Just one chérie. I threw it back – it wasn’t worth keeping.’ which brings us up to the final sentence…chillng.


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