“Ben, every legend and all mythologies exist to teach us how to run our days. In kind fashion. A loving way. But there’s no story, no matter how ancient, as important as one’s own. So if we’re to live good lives, we have to tell ourselves our own story. In a good way. A way that’s decent to ourselves.”
(from The Last Storyteller, page 99)
The Last Storyteller is the final book in a trilogy by Frank Delaney that began with Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, followed by The Matchmaker of Kenmare. I firmly believe that you must read these books in order to truly appreciate the story, but with a masterful storyteller like Delaney at the helm, you are in for a big treat. I must admit that I had tears in my eyes when I finished this book. I had grown to love Ben MacCarthy over the course of his story, and I wasn’t ready to let him go.
Like the previous two books, The Last Storyteller is Ben’s recounting of his life for his two children with Venetia, Ben and Louise. It opens in 1956, with Ben still traveling and collecting stories for his job with the Irish Folklore Commission. He is a sorry case, not knowing what to do about his wife and having never set eyes on his children, who are now in their early 20s. Ben has problems, but so does his beloved country, as the Irish Republican Army launches its Border Campaign as part of an effort to take Northern Ireland back from the British and create a united Ireland.
Ben inadvertently becomes involved with a man running guns for the IRA, and despite all efforts to disentangle himself, his connection to Jimmy Bermingham put him on a path that culminates in an event that could be his either salvation or his undoing. But at the core of the novel is the Irish art of storytelling. Ben meets John Jacob O’Neill, called the “culmination” by Ben’s mentor, James Clare. O’Neill is an old man who never seems to age, who can captivate an audience with legends and myths for hours on end, and whose guidance will help Ben to finally heal.
Delaney never ceases to amaze me with his storytelling abilities. He deftly weaves legends and mythologies into Ben’s story, and he juggles so many interesting characters and connects them in ways I didn’t always expect. There were times that I thought the book was getting a bit long, but I was never once bored, so I think it was merely my impatience to find out what happened. I love how he clearly explained the IRA conflict and the struggles of the Irish people from long ago, but he worked it into Ben’s writings so it wasn’t distracting.
Though I loved every book in this trilogy, I think The Last Storyteller was my favorite. Delaney paces the story perfectly, taking readers on an adventure that is as much a story of Ireland’s tumultuous history as it is Ben’s journey to find himself. Even though I wasn’t ready to let Ben go, I knew it was time, and Delaney skillfully concludes the story in a way that satisfied my curiosity to know what really happened and felt true to the life of the characters I’d grown to know and love. He enables readers to share the lives of his characters so that I felt like I truly knew Ben, his strengths and his faults, and I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for him at his low points and elated for him when the rays of hope shone through. Delaney has earned a space on my list of favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
If you’re interested in The Last Storyteller, you are in luck. Courtesy of MEIER, I have a copy to offer to my readers. To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me your favorite book about Irish storytelling, history, or politics, or why you want to read this book. This giveaway is open internationally and will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, April 8, 2012.
**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.