Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: 'The Scattering' by Jaki McCarrick

The Scattering is Jaki McCarrick's debut collection of short stories, several of which have received awards and been published in literary magazines. This first collection is beautifully presented. The cover carries a reproduction of the painting The Badminton Game (1972) by David Inshaw, in reference to the second story 'The Badminton Court'. There are nineteen stories and they are diverse in their subject matter but all carry a dark resonance which is complemented perfectly by McCarrick's spare but emotive writing style.

Jaki McCarrick lives in Dundalk and the northern border towns, long-term impact of the Troubles and the darker side of life are all subjects that are explored in her stories. As with many of the best of short story writers, McCarrick leaves some questions unanswered. Coming into a story mid scene and leaving it with a situation hanging only adds to the atmosphere and leaves the reader in a delicious state of uncertainty of how the situation developed. This is certainly the case in the opening story 'By The Black Field' which tells of Angel and his expectant wife Jess, not long returned from London to settle in Angel's childhood summer home. '1975' cleverly uses the basis of a father watching his daughter wait for a bus home to think back over the impact of past tragedy on the family life. 'The Scattering', the titular story tells almost beautifully the story of a brother's ashes being scattered at sea, the atmosphere of the coastal area a background for his thoughts.  The darkness of the story '1976' is affecting and in fact this is the general feeling throughout this collection, that one is being affected by the reading of these stories, in a moving and thoughtful way.


There is no doubt that Jaki McCarrick is a talented writer. The connectivity of several of these tales is most satisfying for the reader and the unaffected, straight-talking writing style gives a credibility to the stories. The darkness of the subject matter only adds to the attraction of this collection and I look forward to seeing more of her writing in the future.

The Scattering is published by Seren Books

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