I was delighted to receive a gift of Donal Ryan’s collection of short stories A Slanting of the Sun as it was definitely on my to-buy list. I’d loved The Spinning Heart and have read it a couple of times. I had commented in my review of Around the Farm Gate that I particularly liked the humourous and the dark stories and boy, there is plenty of darkness in Ryan’s collection.
Each story packs a punch. It delivers something that takes your breath away, sometimes an unexpected twist, sometimes a total shock, sometimes it is something that you just don’t want to think that this happens in reality. I became even more aware that I live in a little farming middle-class bubble. This isn’t a book to read in one sitting. Each story needs time to reflect upon (some to recover from) and yes, I think many of them will stay with me for considerable time. Ryan really got under the skin of each character, each one is credible – and sometimes scarily so! Even though some of these stories are very short, you do get to know the characters well or at least you think you do – until the twist near the end.
There’s plenty there for book clubs to discuss and every reader will have their favourites or certainly have stories that resonate more. For me, the theme is definitely ‘all is not quite what it seems’ and indeed, some stories are inspired by events you’ll recognise from the news, for example, there’s one that refers to the abuse in care homes. Topics included a robbery of lonely bachelor farmers, religious divisions in early twentieth century Ireland, how hurling brought people together, war-torn Syria, the taking of revenge, causing death by careless driving and many more. There is prostitution, murder, rape, cruelty, racism, revenge. There’s also love and friendship, although sometimes in short supply.
If you like stories with a happy ending, this probably isn’t the book for you. The language is so well structured though, beautiful opening sentences (many commenting on the colour of the sky) and closing sentences that will sometimes make you gasp. It’s not a comfortable read but it definitely a book worth reading.