The Last Storyteller: A Novel of Ireland
In 1956, Ben MacCarthy travels around Ireland collecting stories for the Folklore Commission. His own life story is a mess — he didn’t rescue his beloved wife, Venetia, after she was kidnapped. She and the twins Ben fathered but never met are now back in Ireland, she under the abusive hand of the man who grabbed her. Ben’s story is shot through with Irish legend and IRA gunrunning; Brian Boru and Michael Collins; mythic Finn MacCool and Ben’s new mentor, master storyteller John Jacob O’Neill.
Ben learns how stories come true, that they’re where you go to look for the truth of your own life, and that, most importantly, “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.”
That’s a piece of advice worth holding on to, and Delaney demonstrates how to do it, to bring back “the warriors and princesses and heroes and maidens and druids and wizards and chieftains and bards … returned from the shadows of time and the universe to help their descendants to a better life.” Those figures belong in our own stories (and the rapparees too, those Irish bandits and highwaymen).
This is the third book of a trilogy, but I never missed not having read the first two, although they’re on my to-read list now. I was completely drawn in, trusting Delaney’s authority to tell this story, and loving his way of addressing me. Google “the most eloquent man in the world” and Delaney’s name appears. Read The Last Storyteller and you’ll know why. Recommended.