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Smashwords book reviews by C E

  • The Missing Postman and Other Stories on Jan. 29, 2013

    The Missing Postman and Other Stories by Tom O'Brien The Missing Postman and Other Stories by Waterfordman Tom O’Brien delivers a kaleidoscopic view of life in rural Southern Ireland. Recollecting and reflecting upon the hard times of the era-predominantly the 1960s - these are tales of Irishmen home and away. The title story is possibly the strongest with revelations coming thick and fast from a very unlikely mix of characters, with more twists and turns than a bucket of vipers - and just as dangerous. Throughout, Tom explores in his tales the curse of the Irish emigrant, 'you can never go back', that once exiled, Irishmen and women find that they haven't settled properly in exile and find home too strange to feel 'at home'. Finding employment as casual subbies in England, working to drink and gambling on anything that moved and generally living as outlaws looking over their shoulders, and adopting transient lifestyles describes the themes of the other stories; of Blondie and Johnjo and their colourful antics plaited in with their regrets and longing for home. The Homecoming combines the harsh realities of life in olden days with poignant naivety and vulnerability. Brendan Behan's women is set initially in New York, and allows us to peep into Tom's version of the man in his latter days, belligerent, blocked and broke. This tale depicts the writer in strife when his two worlds collide; his wife and his mistress. An almost comic element in this story is the fact that both women are pregnant with his babies, after years of barrenness in his marriage.
  • The Shiny Red Honda on June 19, 2013

    Tom O'Brien's autobiographical book The Shiny Red Honda is a witty blend of nostalgia, humour and hard-necked survivalism set in rural Ireland in the mid 20th century. Tricks and games, and childish and often crude attempts to grow into the weird world of the fervently Catholic Irish community as a youngster describes the author's early story through the school years. Volatile school-teachers instil a variety of traits and learned tactics for both appeasing and anatagoning all and sundry, and the relationship between Church, school and home are intimately close and often merged. As a boy in the country, O'Brien gives us splendid insights into the natural world through his observations of wild animals and the subtle effects of the seasons on his immediate environment. Looming beyond his homestead, the constantly changing view of the Comeragh mountains is something Tom refers to and takes us on a tour with him. The rural lifestyle demanded hard work and struggles to make ends meet. A wonderful story about a pig being readied for the chop - so to speak - results in an unusual way of finding the bacon. Other amusing stories revolved around his places of work, and also the local dances in search of female companionship and enlightenment into the mysteries of love. His time with the Royal Dukes band holds many stories of young men chancing their arms to succeed. Altogether a feel-good story, told in the amusing O'Brien way with a twinkle in the eye; a story of its time realistically delivered without rose-tinted glasses and fairy dust.