In this book Niall Williams takes us to the town of Faha, located next to (almost on) the river Shannon, in county Clare, rural Ireland and leaves us to the narrative mercy of a character named Ruth Swain. Thankfully, for our sakes, she is a competent girl and is well skilled with written communication despite her young 19 years. She begins to tell you, Dear Reader, of her family and their history, the land she lives in and it’s people. The depths of description and detail on each member of this book brings a leap alike to a Salmons to my heart. Laid in such a way so as not to bore you till you snore, it is a great fete.
Ruth. She is a poor child in two senses, but you do not listen to her renditions of tales, because she is bed ridden by an unstated blood condition, nor because she lacks new clothes. No! You listen intently! One: because what she says is told with such richness that it compels your mind to imagine and sink deep into the stories. Two: because you realise she has outread you by a vast amount of books. All around her are lain a 3958 of these paper joys. Each one a journey that she has taken while surrounded by the rain and cocooned safe in her boat shaped bed. She has sailed them all. And so has Mr Williams as the references from lines up to whole characters that are given show he has spent a good time, possibly his life, researching to write a his own book in this manner.
Niall Williams has a truly wonderful imagination and has written a book I would have delighted in writing and do delight in reading. Each page is turned with a drip of rain brushed from the brow and a rush of joy as great as the river itself.