I was thrilled when Open Road Integrated Media gave me an advanced review copy of Collected Stories by Frank O’Connor. O’Conner (1903-1966) was an Irish author best known for his short stories and memoirs. For more information on this prolific author, visit the Frank O’Connor Research Website.
The first story in the collection, “Guests of the Nation”, is arguably one of his most famous. Four men are sitting around a cottage playing cards, talking and relaxing with each other and their hostess who is a kind old lady. It becomes apparent from the story that two of the men are English and are actually being held as captive by the other two characters in the story who are presumably IRA soldiers. The juxtaposition of the slow-paced and calm first part of the story and the fast moving climax in the second half of the story is a testament to O’Connor’s writing genius.
In “The Bridal Night,” a mother tells the story of how her shy son’s love for a local school teacher has driven him mad and now the son lives out his days in an asylum. This is a tragic story and the reader feels the pain of the mother and son, but there is a surprising twist at the end when the woman with whom the young man is in love does him a kindness that no one expects.
I was very glad to see a story in this collection that was loosely tied to World War I since I have been reviewing so many World War I historical fiction books. In “My Oedipus Complex”, a young boy, Larry, is used to his mother’s undivided attention while his father is away fighting in World War I. But when the war is over, the boy’s father comes home and now the boy must share his mother’s attention. I found it fascinating to see this story from the child’s point of view. As adults we are oftentimes so caught up with our own problems, we tend to minimize and ignore the complaints of children, which to them seem like the end of the world. There is also a humorous change of fortunes at the end of this story when the father and his son are compelled to become allies instead of sworn enemies.
Overall, this is an impressive collection of short stories and even though I have only highlighted a few of my favorites, I enjoyed all of the stories in this volume. Do you like to read short stories? I would love to have some short story recommendations from my readers in the comments.