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The All of It

Jeannette Haien's The All of It beguilingly occupies the thinly-populated frontier between the novel and novella. At just under 150 pages, it is rather long for a novella, but its concision is characteristic of short fiction rather than long. What is essentially a short story frames the telling of a long tale. The events related in the tale occurred nearly fifty years before the present action, which in turn is confined to the space of four days. If nothing else, The All of It is a beautiful composition.

But this is not a case of "nothing else." Now almost twenty years old, The All of It looks back to the relatively unadvanced Ireland of the Thirties. We see a beautiful widow at two points in her life, her teens and her sixties. We also have a middle-aged priest, who moves from a determination to root out an old sin to the contemplation of committing  a new one. Surprised by the woman's companionate charm, he is drawn to consider abandoning his celibacy, and we are left with the understanding that the widow will see to it that this does not happen.

The writing is clear-eyed and poetic, by which I mean that Ms Haien bends language to signal and provoke ineffable feelings.

Enda's house, he supposed with a sink of his heart, would be alike: dark, shut and still.

His mind tripped then on the memory of it having been but yesterday - only yesterday! - he'd driven in a retreating way up the lane in the opposite direction. But that had been after. After so much...

Continue reading about The All of It at Portico.


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