In this collection of tales by Órfhlaith Foyle, we meet a cast of disparate characters, that at first glance appear to have little, if anything, in common yet it doesn’t take long to realise that they all share one trait, that being - in one way or another - each and everyone of them is broken. These are individuals that initially appear fine, even normal. You or they would instigate a conversation, which would follow along standard lines, you’d possibly discuss the weather, the subject’s not important – but at some point the fracture would reveal itself, it may not even be that first meet, but a moment will occur and you will realise that something is not right, that whatever humanity they have, in one way or another has been damaged.
There are nineteen stories in this collection, and from the very first one, you are fascinated, and by this I mean in it’s old sense* - to render motionless, as with a fixed stare or by arousing terror or awe - and yet you are caught wanting to know more, wanting to follow the tale to its conclusion. In one of the tales - Two Vampires, we watch a pair of male vampires sitting in a cafe stalking their next prey….
“Robert loves the death he forces into humans. He loves how their skin tears under his teeth and their attempts at screaming turn to nothing in his ears. He has stopped remembering anything of his life before, yet in the beginning, like Frances, he presumed he could not forget. He had expected to remember how the smell of fresh bread filled a morning or how he always longed to be clean…… but he forgot it all.
Now he appreciates the distance between him and humans. Their lives are alien, only their blood means anything. Robert had once tried to explain it to Francis who did not listen, not because he was not interested, but because his hatred for Robert – although finally vague after all these years together – remained inside him still.”
We follow this pair, who like some old couple who now loathe each other and yet, whether through necessity or through a habit long devoid of reason, are still together as they isolate and then feed on their chosen prey.
In another of the tales - The secret life of Madame Defarge, we listen in on the thoughts of a Tricoteuse*. She is an old woman sitting at the foot of the guillotine, knitting and howling her hatred at all those walking that final path. This is one of those tales that changes your perspective by offering a different viewpoint on a scene we’ve probably seen a thousand times, in literature and film, via the tales of Dickens, Orczy, Sabatini or France* - although here, by focusing on the old woman, the writer has created a fantastic tale that will revolt and yet…..here is the tale for your delectation*
Órfhlaith Foyle was born in Africa (Nigeria) to Irish missionary parents, she also lived in Kenya and Malawi, all of which have fed into her wonderful writing. Later she lived in Australia, France, Russia, Israel and taught in London's East End for two years before settling in Galway, Ireland, working as a freelance journalist and editing a community magazine. She has been published in The Shop, The Stinging Fly, The Burning Bush, Markings and Galway Now. As well as this collection of short stories, she has written a collection of poetry and short stories, and a novel . At the moment she’s working on a second novel. Her cited influences include Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Mansfield, Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson. She has a Bachelor in Humanities, and has been published in a number of literary journals.
Belios, Lilliput Press, 2005 (Novel)
Revenge, Arlen House, 2005 (Short Stories & Poetry)
Red Riding Hood's Dilemma, Arlen House, 2009 (Poetry)
*from Latin fascināre, from fascinum a bewitching
*Tricoteuse,literally translates from the French as a (feminine) knitter or knitting device. The term is most often used in its historical sense as a name for the women who frequented the public executions in Paris during the French Revolution.
*Charles Dickens ( Tale of Two Cities), Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Rafael Sabatini(Scaramouche ) or Anatole France (The Gods Are Athirst).
*Here is the tale for your delectation – I would like to thank Mel U from The Reading Life, for acting as a go between between myself and the writer and for providing the information relating to the link to the The secret life of Madame Defarge story, and would also send my fondest regards and thanks to the writer in allowing me to read her fascinating collection of stories. This collection is to be published by Arlen House this year (2011), and is out on the 15th November, although you can pre order via the usual places and I would thoroughly recommend you to get your hands on a copy.
Women Rule Writer Interview
The Reading Life(Somewhere in Minnesota)
syracuse university press.