The Collected Stories


Two decades of short fiction from a great Irish storyteller: "An imagination that transmutes reality into the stuff of magic." ?Sunday Telegraph.

The Irish writer Clare Boylan has been publishing compelling and captivating work for over twenty years. Though she is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, she remains one of the most original and exciting short-story writers of our time. Like Alistair MacLeod, Alice Munro, and her compatriot William Trevor, her stories are ...

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Two decades of short fiction from a great Irish storyteller: "An imagination that transmutes reality into the stuff of magic." —Sunday Telegraph.

The Irish writer Clare Boylan has been publishing compelling and captivating work for over twenty years. Though she is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, she remains one of the most original and exciting short-story writers of our time. Like Alistair MacLeod, Alice Munro, and her compatriot William Trevor, her stories are universal. Hers is an imagination that is able, magically and marvelously, to transform everyday experience into something quite unexpected.

As perceptive as Colette, as darkly witty as Dorothy Parker, she waves a flag for the dispossessed and the marginalized and gleefully pulls love from behind its romantic façade. She makes the reader laugh out loud while at the same time compelling an uncomfortable self-examination. Plumbing the inner workings of marriage, aging, family dynamics, and the cost of love, her richly sardonic humor and acutely merciless observations may seem gentle, but look again, for they are edged with razors.

Celebrating twenty years of rare accomplishment, The Collected Stories introduces American readers to a luminous and unforgettable writer of short fiction.

Author Biography: Clare Boylan is the author of three volumes of short stories and six novels, the most recent being Beloved Stranger. She lives in Ireland.

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Editorial Reviews

Observer (London)
Glimmering, lyrical prose.
Publishers Weekly
Irish writer Boylan is better known as a novelist (Beloved Stranger, etc.), but this collection of 38 short stories is a pleasing showcase for her quirky plotting and deceptively simple, smooth prose style. The shorter stories are more effective, most notably "My Son the Hero," in which a mother decides that her doltish adult son has committed a murder and takes matters into her own hands. "The Stolen Child" offers a series of musings on the nature of babies after a woman indulges her fascination with infants by briefly kidnapping the child of a woman with seven bratty, out-of-control kids. "The Little Madonna" takes a broader perspective on the issue of children, as an older woman offers a series of thought-provoking ruminations on how modern sexuality has affected child raising after she sees a tabloid story about the birth of a "perfect" baby girl. The longer stories are less consistent, as Boylan tends to rapidly change direction and pursue divergent narrative lines, losing control of her intriguing conceits. Her odd, conceptual approach to the art of the short story is something of an acquired taste, but these tales trace the development of her Patricia Highsmith-like tone and meticulous storytelling. Though her range is narrow, she is an appealing and idiosyncratic chronicler of the quirks and foibles of the Irish working class. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Acclaimed for her six novels, the Irish-born Boylan is also a gifted short story writer. This book, which is intended as an introduction for American readers, collects previously published pieces written from 1978 to 2000. Boylan usually manages a somewhat different twist on daily life. Her subjects are often people in prosaic situations: couples whose relationships have "gone bad" but who stay together because their options are limited, neighbors whose children worry about appearances, misunderstandings between children and adults, interactions between mothers and sons, families struggling with unique dynamics, and individuals struggling with their aging. In her introduction, Boylan describes her characters as "a consummately Irish collection of anarchists, dreamers, and outsiders," going on to say that while reviewers have described her work as "savage comedy," she prefers to call the stories "tales of life's infinite possibility and the comic grandeur of life's impossible dreams." These observations are apt, and the descriptions that Boylan provides are exquisitely rendered. Recommended for all lovers of the short story medium.-Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Drawn from three previous volumes, these 38 stories written over two decades by Irish author Boylan (Beloved Stranger, 2001, etc.) include "Housekeeper's Cut," a town-mouse/country-mouse variation in which town-mouse Edward has an affair with country-mouse Susan. But when she then comes to the city for a visit, predictable tensions arise: Will the injured, symbolic bird they find die or fly away? "Life on Mars" is an odd tale about a woman whose widowhood is compounded first by ghosts, then by the insipid occupants of flying saucers. Equally odd is "The Little Madonna," the rant of a woman fed up with the world as she reads through a newspaper filled with stories of lost children. An opposite motif works in the final piece, "A Model Daughter." A divorcée fabricates a daughter in order to get checks from the unwitting father, and the imaginary daughter is well into womanhood before the father finally demands to meet her, which, naturally, means that our divorcée must hire a call girl to act the part, and we shouldn't be surprised if the scene that ensues comes to resemble a sitcom. Prolific, flexible, and unquestionably talented, but Boylan doesn't aspire to much. Her own introduction says it best: "In my short stories, dreams are fragile gladiators in an arena of hoary old lions of reality."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582432618
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 9/26/2002
  • Pages: 412
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Clare Boylan
Clare Boylan
Employing her knack for research, her love of the Victorian novel, and her connection to kindred literary spirit Charlotte Brontë, award-winning Irish journalist and novelist Clare Boylan (1948- 2006) accomplished the formidable task of actually "finishing" Brontë's novel Emma Brown. It was the crowning achievement of her distinguished literary career.


Clare Boylan began her literary career as a journalist for the now defunct Irish Press. In 1974, while working for Ireland's Evening Press, she won the Journalist of the Year Award. She also worked as editor of Image magazine and lent her considerable style and elegance to that glossy lifestyle publication. Her first book, the novel Holy Pictures, was published in 1983. She went on to complete six additional novels, several collections of short stories, two works of literary nonfiction, and an impressive body of criticism.

The book for which Boylan is best known is Emma Brown, a brilliant, imaginative continuation of a 20-page novel fragment left behind by Charlotte Brontë. Before tackling the project, Boylan spent countless hours in painstaking research, immersing herself in the social conventions of Victorian London (where the novel takes place) and striving to re-create the subtle nuances of Brontë's unique literary voice. She succeeded admirably. Published in 2003, the book received lavish praise, especially for its pitch-perfect tone. Writing in the New York Times, reviewer Miranda Seymour raved, "Emma Brown is a powerful and magnificently written novel that does ample justice to the two brief chapters from which it sprang."

Boylan died on May 16th, 2006, from ovarian cancer, a disease she had battled for several years.

Good To Know

In our interview, Boylan revealed some interesting anecdotes about herself:

"As children my sisters and I read late into the night by torchlight. When the torches gave out we made up our own stories, cliff-hanging serials that always stopped at the most spine-tingling moment."

"I became a professional writer because it was a hidden profession. I always looked too young and too small for a proper job. As a teenager I got a summer job in a grocery shop, but I looked so unimpressive that I was put in the back cutting the stalks off cabbages. The two old ladies who ran the shop would not even let me out to join the street parade for John F. Kennedy, who was visiting Dublin. I have never forgiven them for that."

"My first poem was published when I was 16. It was called "First Love." It earned me ten shillings and a fan letter from a handsome older man (with a blurred photo enclosed) who wrote poems about his wartime experiences. After a fever of correspondence we agreed to meet. What a shock! I couldn't believe anyone could be so old. He had neglected to mention that his service was in World War One. I never wrote another poem, but I did write a short story about the meeting and that set me on the path to fiction."

"Holy Pictures was my first novel, published in 1983. Home Rule, published nine years later, was inspired by an old photograph I found in a friend's house. I realized it fitted exactly my image of Nan's mother, Daisy, and knew I had to tell the story of Daisy's childhood and early marriage."

"I have always loved walking, talking, and reading and I like interesting ways to exercise. I am currently learning to box -- great for me, but a challenge for my instructor teaching a skinny, middle-aged five-footer. Next project is to learn to ride a bicycle. I have been driving since my 20s but never learned to cycle."

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    1. Hometown:
      County Wicklow, Ireland
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 21, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      May 16, 2006
    2. Place of Death:
      Dublin, Ireland

Table of Contents

Housekeeper's Cut 1
The Wronged Wife 17
Bad-Natured Dog 26
Appearances 38
Some Retired Ladies on a Tour 51
Edna, Back From America 67
My Son the Hero 74
A Funny Thing Happened 80
You Don't Know You're Alive 92
The Picture House 106
Affairs in Order 118
A Particular Calling 129
Technical Difficulties and the Plague 143
The Little Madonna 154
L'Amour 163
Ears 182
The Stolen Child 190
It's Her 201
Life on Mars 210
The Secret Diary of Mrs. Rochester 217
That Bad Woman 226
Poor Old Sod 235
Villa Marta 241
The Miracle of Life 250
The Spirit of the Tree 261
A Little Girl, Never Out Before 268
To Tempt a Woman 284
Thatcher's Britain 291
Horrible Luck 302
Confession 311
Concerning Virgins 316
Gods and Slaves 324
Perfect Love 331
A Reproduction 340
A Nail on the Head 346
Mama 360
The Complete Angler 371
A Model Daughter 381
Publication Sequence 395
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