A collection of 12 new stories on aging, illness and loss from the Irish author of Grace Notes, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Midwinter Break, shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award.
There are the stories which are essentially tales, anecdotes, the kind you can imagine yourself re-telling. Others are atmospheric pieces in which the narrative line is muted ... Bernard MacLaverty is a master of the second sort of story, writing it better than almost anyone else ... MacLaverty is a poet of loneliness, of people making do in hard times ... There is not a dud in this collection. Each story demands the reader’s close attention. Each invites a second reading which in every case will deepen one’s understanding. There is humour in most of them too, even if it is sometimes the humour that comes from the sad and weary recognition that this is how life is. MacLaverty has a fine sense of place and is excellent on weather, both ways of establishing a story’s mood. He has never been an author who sought the limelight, but by shedding a sympathetic light on difficult moments in people’s lives, he enriches our experience of each other.
The stories in this Irish author’s new book are about loss, death, the inevitability of grief, the indignities of age and the way a life can suddenly slide into the abyss. It could have been very grim going, but MacLaverty writes with such compassion that his stories never feel bleak; they feel humane. They feel hopeful ... There is humor in these stories, too ... The continuous encounters with such exquisite impressions immerse you in each narrative, leaving you vulnerable to its emotional punch. Blank Pages may explore some of life’s darkest passages, but they feel true as only fiction can, and are never overcome by the darkness.
Blank Pages is an older man's book, the prose simpler than in previous work, and somehow both more urgent and more elegiac ... The stories are largely preoccupied with loss, past or impending: of parents and children, of memories and home, of possibilities, inspiration and illusions. But with the prospect of every loss comes the imperative to bear witness, create a record, or, at the very least, to see, truly see ... it is the poor Catholic father, gathering blackthorn sticks when he gets his scratch, who provides perspective, and perhaps a key to MacLaverty's Blank Pages: 'As the light faded, everything became very sharp against the sky.'