The Boatman and Other Stories

The Boatman and Other Stories

4.37 (153 ratings by Goodreads)
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4.37 (153 ratings by Goodreads)

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'The best fiction I have read this year.' JOHN BANVILLE, IRISH TIMES *BOOKS OF THE YEAR*

The breathtaking short story collection from the Costa-shortlisted Irish writer

In these twelve quietly dazzling, carefully crafted stories, Billy O'Callaghan explores the resilience of the human heart and its ability to keep beating even in the wake of grief, trauma and lost love.

Spanning a century and two continents - from the muddy fields of Ireland to a hotel room in Paris, a dingy bar in Segovia to an aeroplane bound for Taipei - The Boatman follows an unforgettable cast of characters. Three gunshots on the Irish border define the course of a young man's life; a writer clings fast to a star-crossed affair with a woman who has never been fully in his reach; a fisherman accustomed to hard labour rolls up his sleeves to dig a grave for his child; a pair of newly-weds embark on their first adventure, living wild on the deserted Beginish Island.

Ranging from the elegiac to the brutally confrontational, these densely layered tales reveal the quiet heroism and gentle dignity of ordinary life. O'Callaghan is a master celebrant of the smallness of the human flame against the dark: its strength, and its steady brightness.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 25mm | 379g
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1787330907
  • 9781787330900
  • 409,617

Review Text

Wonderful stories… A masterclass... The reader is lulled into a false sense of ordinariness that gives way — sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly — to a moment of cataclysm…that leaves the reader reeling… There is no denying the power of his words… O’Callaghan’s stories are beautiful, plain and simple, and each one is devastatingly good.
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Review quote

The best fiction I have read this year is Billy O'Callaghan's short-story collection The Boatman. The book is old-fashioned in the best sense, in that it is written by a grown-up for grown-up persons, as Virginia Woolf said of Middlemarch. The stories are taut, subtle and moving, and brought off beautifully. -- John Banville * Irish Times *Best Books of 2020* * Wonderful stories... A masterclass... The reader is lulled into a false sense of ordinariness that gives way - sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly - to a moment of cataclysm...that leaves the reader reeling... There is no denying the power of his words... O'Callaghan's stories are beautiful, plain and simple, and each one is devastatingly good. -- Kathleen MacMahon * Sunday Times * Billy O'Callaghan writes beautifully... In evoking atmosphere, such a key element in the short story, he is matchless... His prose is a feast after a famine... The luxuriance of the language, the agility of the sentences, and the depth of the reflections. These stories are like classical sonatas... The writing is invariably delightful. -- Eilis Ni Dhuibhne * Irish Times * A shining example of how [short stories] can distil and intensify a writer's gifts... These 12 stories confirm [O'Callaghan's] delicate craftsmanship, unflashy narrative and descriptive skill, and his deep understanding of powerful and universal emotions... Breathtaking... Masterly... Irish writing has put out many new and more consciously modernist shoots in recent years, all welcome. But Billy O'Callaghan belongs now in the recognised front rank, along with Bernard MacLaverty, Edna O'Brien, William Trevor and Colm Toibin. -- Ann Chisholm * Tablet, *Novel of the Week* * [Billy O'Callaghan] makes epics out of the unspoken, the barely said, the half-hinted at, the wordless nod... This is O'Callaghan's quest, to reveal who his characters really are, especially when they're burdened with life's cruelties. And in chronicling the bravery sometimes required in simply putting one foot in front of the other, he makes heroes of the humblest of us. -- Anne Cunningham * Sunday Independent * There is marrow in The Boatman and Other Stories... [With] unforced gravity and lyricism... O'Callaghan is a reliably consummate performer, and these stories focus on the glimmer of heart in the hardness of life. -- Phil Baker * Sunday Times * A master of the form... O'Callaghan's descriptive powers are wonderful... O'Callaghan keeps the reader coming back for more, proving himself a master of the hook, one devastating line that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let go. -- John Walshe * Sunday Business Post * Deeply affecting stories...and deeply attentive to the perils and poignancies of daily life... nuanced, moving-an impressive collection. * Kirkus Reviews (starred review) * O'Callaghan is...a wellspring of great story ideas, and this imagination is writ large across The Boatman & Other Stories... O'Callaghan's sense of place is vivid and impressive... John Banville, Edna O'Brien and John Boyne are all effusive in their praise for O'Callaghan's muscular, quietly assured writing. -- Tanya Sweeney * Irish Independent * A master of the short story. -- John Banville * Irish Times *Books of the Year* *
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About Billy O'Callaghan

Billy O'Callaghan is the author of the critically acclaimed novel My Coney Island Baby, which has been translated into nine languages and was shortlisted for the Encore Award 2020. Stories in his short-story collection The Boatman and Other Stories were shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award and for Short Story of the Year in the An Post Irish Book Awards. He lives in Douglas, a village on the edge of Cork City.
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Rating details

153 ratings
4.37 out of 5 stars
5 50% (77)
4 39% (59)
3 8% (13)
2 3% (4)
1 0% (0)
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