Laney Lenox recently received her undergraduate degree in Peace Studies with a minor and honors in Creative Writing. Originally from the United States, she moved to Galway to work as an intern for The Galway Review. While in college, she worked as a writing tutor at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and as the Community Engagement Intern for the Institute for Southern Jewish Life. She also worked as a creative writing teacher for Operation Upward, an inner-city organization in Jackson, Mississippi that offered after-school programs for youth.
Paul Kestell’s short story collection The West Cork Railway and Other Stories
By Laney Lenox
As an American who does not know Cork, certainly not specifically West Cork, well, I cannot personally attest to whether or not Paul Kestell’s short story collection The West Cork Railway and Other Stories is an accurate representation of the region. However, I can say that the collection’s use of prose written in dialect and the parallels drawn between Irish history and the characters’ present day lives deeply roots the story in Ireland. The stories explore themes such as tensions between new and old Ireland and the importance of remembering Ireland’s past. The book’s stories are varied in subject matter, dealing both with modern-day issues that likely were not as explored in old Irish tradition, such as same-sex couples and new interpretations of historical events, such as the civil war that followed the Easter Rising. In what I personally think to be the strongest story of the collection, “The West Cork Railway”, Kestell uses characters to explore a historical event, the closing of the West Cork railway. Through the young speaker, a schoolboy, the story explores the tensions that arise from the differing opinions of the older and younger communities, who view this historical event differently. The older community, who lived through the event and remember it as a detriment to the community. The modern opinion, as voiced by the young speaker’s schoolteacher, views the closing of the railway as a sound economic decision based on practical economic grounds. The story, as parts or all of other stories of the collection are, is written in local dialect. The dialect affects the pacing of the story, causing the reader to feel drawn into the present moment of the story. This sense of presence also comes from details the speaker gives the reader as they are happening, such as the temperature of a cup of tea. Although these details do serve to draw the reader into the present moment, they do seem at times unnecessary and cause some of the stories to feel slow in parts. At times I had difficulty understanding how certain characters relate to one another; however, this could be due to the fact that the book is the second of a series.