Birdie By Nuala O’Connor Arlen House, €10.00 Sat, Dec 5, 2020, 06:00
As you would expect from O’Connor, this collection of flash fiction is a menagerie of exquisite language. The stories transport us to moments in time, and to no-time, as the author paints fragments of history that are palpable with characters who come alive in a brushstroke. Artists and sitters are here as are servants, soldiers, mothers and sisters in stories of losing, longing, and home. Historical fiction can sometimes be clogged with research – not so in these stories which are glances, swift and sensory, with grace-notes of details to let us recognise where we are. Here is the “crookedness of nature,” the lure and lore of home but also the emigrant, the lost lover, the perished child. This collection takes us from the olagón to the “shale-and-ripple of a shell”: a pearl. – Ruth McKee
I was awarded a COVID-19 Crisis Response Award for Literature, from the Arts Council of Ireland, to write and compile birdie, a collection of 16 historical and out-of-time flash and micro fictions.
You can buy a digital copy of birdiehere at Draft2Digital or a kindle edition here. It costs €5.99 / US$5.99 / £4.99.
Arlen House has produced a limited, hard-copy edition of birdie which can be bought from Kennys, Galway (Kennys now has signed copies!); Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop Galway; Hodges Figgis; The Reading Room in Leitrim; Forever Amber in Meath; Waterstones Cork; Dubrays; and O’Mahonys. Your local shop will order.
Love is the central force in birdie, a collection of sixteen historical and out-of-time flash fictions that sing with the voices of women loving and losing and learning. The characters here find strength, despite the sorrows of death and deceit: a ghost-child returns to Massachusetts to comfort her grieving mother; the daughter of a Spanish orange tycoon regrets her mother’s terrible choices; an English maid longs for, but can’t be with, her mistress’s son.
Birdie contains O’Connor’s signature ekphrastic work, drawing on artists as diverse as Matisse, da Vinci, and American painter Edwin Romanzo Elmer. The natural world looms large too: sheep and foxes roam these pages, while seawater washes through them.
Described by the Toronto Star as a writer of ‘magical imagination’ and by the Washington Post as ‘soaring’, O’Connor’s collection of historical flash will delight her readers, old and new.
Nuala has been head-to-the-desk, busy editing her forthcoming novel about Nora Barnacle for her new editor in New York – more on that to come soon!
In the meantime, you might catch her at one of these upcoming events:
Strangers in a Strange Land event at Bray Literary Festival, with Mary Costello and Oisín Fagan, Sunday 29th Sep at 1pm, Town Hall, Bray. More here.
Trinity College Dublin Literary Society, 6pm, 10th October, GSU Common Room: Reading and interview at Trinity College Literary Society, Dublin: Nuala returns to her alma mater to talk to the students at Lit Soc. about her latest novel, Becoming Belle.
Scotland: In late October Nuala is teaching the short story at Moniack Mhor in Scotland with Welsh writer Cynan Jones. More here. FULLY BOOKED.
Group 8 annual exhibition: LEONARDO 500 opens on 15th October, 6pm, Church Gallery, Ballinasloe Library. Nuala has written a flash fiction in the voice of da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa for this annual exhibition.
Spain: In November Nuala travels to Spain as part of EFACIS to teach and read to students in universities at Burgos and Logroño.
Dingle Literary Festival: In late November, Nuala is teaching a flash fiction workshop at Dingle Literary Festival and conducting a public interview with Leeann Lane about Dorothy McArdle. More here.