I love this book, and I hope you will too.
When All is Said by Anne Griffin.
Five toasts. Five people. One lifetime.
‘A hugely enjoyable, engrossing novel, a genuine page-turner.’ Donal Ryan
‘An extraordinary novel, a poetic writer, and a story that moved me to tears.’ John Boyne
‘I’m here to remember – all that I have been and all that I will never be again.’
At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual -though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.
Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.
Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.
‘This is how you tell a story’ Cecelia Ahern
‘Beautifully written, unhurried and thoughtful, and a character you love from the off’ Kit de Waal
‘When All Is Said catches a world in a moment. Maurice Hannigan is a wonderful invention, whose bitter-sweet meditations will stay long in the reader’s mind. Anne Griffin has fashioned a rare jewel’ John Banville
‘Masterful storytelling’ Graham Norton
“There’s something special here.” ―John Boyne, New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
“This is how you tell a story.” –Cecelia Ahern, New York Times bestselling author of PS, I Love You
“When All Is Said catches a world in a moment. Maurice Hannigan is a wonderful invention, whose bitter-sweet meditations will stay long in the reader’s mind. Anne Griffin has fashioned a rare jewel.” ―John Banville, New York Times bestselling author of Time Pieces and Man Booker Prize award-winning author of The Sea
“In the twilight of his long and eventful life, Irishman Maurice Hannigan still possesses the deep and mellow voice that his grandmother once told him ‘could melt icebergs―a voice that debut author Anne Griffin renders with wit, verve, and endearing irascibility. When All Is Said captures the texture of a night catching up with an old friend―the pleasures and comforts, the stories and surprises―one that you never want to end, and all the more bittersweet because you know, of course, that it must.” ―Kathleen Rooney, bestselling author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
“Anne Griffin’s debut novel is a must read. Beautifully observed, masterful story telling – stunning!” ―Graham Norton, award-winning author
“When All Is Said is lovely. I’m a sucker for structure and the conception of this novel, told around five toasts is just wonderful, it gives you that sense of a whole life, of someone accounting for themselves and their decisions, it takes a firm grip and draws us in. It is beautifully written, unhurried and thoughtful, a lonely man truthfully wrought and a character you love from the off, in spite of his flaws or maybe because of them.” ―Kit de Waal, bestselling author of My Name is Leon
“Maurice Hannigan is one of those rare and unforgettable characters whose lives we enter, inhabit for a time all too brief, and emerge from deeply changed. Anne Griffin is a writer with a bright, bright future.” ―National Book Award finalist Janet Peery
“A deceptively powerful tale. Beneath the surface of seemingly simple lives lie stunning stories of love, heartbreak, humor, hope, tragedy, regret, and―most of all―humanity.” ―Viola Shipman, international bestselling author of The Summer Cottage and The Charm Bracelet
“When All Is Said is a hugely enjoyable, engrossing novel, a genuine page-turner. Maurice is a fabulous character, wonderfully flawed and completely engaging; his voice is familiar and real, full of sadness and regret and defiance, and unexpected tenderness.” ―Donal Ryan, award-winning author of The Spinning Heart
“It is difficult to believe that When All Is Said is a first novel, as Anne Griffin displays such an assured hand at locating and maintaining the voice of our lead character, Maurice Hannigan. An old widower, Hannigan picks a night at the local pub and toasts the five people who influenced his life in the most important ways, and, in the process, gives an oral first person history of his own life―both the truthful and the delusional. With an impeccable eye, Anne Griffin picks out details from seemingly-unimportant moments in a life that become so much more in her capable hands. Each toast brings a new facet of Hannigan’s life into focus, sometimes shining a light on things he would rather keep buried deep within himself, and the result is quite lovely. I truly felt as if I were in a country pub, sitting with the county raconteur, and I enjoyed his company immensely!” ―Bill Carl, Wellesley Books
“The Irish prequel of A Man Called Ove” ―Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza
“Griffin’s portrait of an Irish octogenarian provides a stage for…the course of one memorable night.”―Kirkus
About the author:
Anne Griffin is an Irish novelist living in Ireland. Anne was awarded the John McGahern Award for Literature, recognising previous and current works. Amongst others, she has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Sunday Business Post Short Story Award.
Anne’s debut novel ‘When All Is Said’ will be published by Sceptre in the UK and Ireland on 24th January, 2019 and by Thomas Dunne Books in the US and Canada on the 5th March, 2019. It will also be published by Rowohlt Verlag in Germany, Delcourt in France, by Harper Collins Holland in the Netherlands, by Wydawnictwo Czarna in Poland, and by Tyto Alba in Lithuania.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Sceptre for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
This is a beautiful novel. Its structure is simple and so is the plot. Written in the first person, this is the story of a man, Maurice Hannigan, a widower, who has come to a decision about what to do with the rest of his life. Having made that decision, it has come the time to explain why he has decided what he has. The novel is structured around his conversation with his son, Kevin, who lives in the USA and is not there in person; therefore it becomes a monologue, with an intended audience of one. We, the readers, act as his son’s stand-ins. Maurice, as we soon learn, has never been the talking kind, so this is a bit of a departure for him, probably because of the time of his life and because he is not eye-to-eye with the person he is addressing.
Maurice has booked the best room in the hotel and is drinking five toasts to the people who have had the most impact in his life. In the process of talking about them and their influence, we get to hear about his life and what made him who he is. He chooses carefully his drinks, measures his words, and also the mementos he has kept. He drinks ale and also his preferred drink, whisky, and shares photographs, a pipe, a coin, and plenty of memories. He toasts to his brother, who died of TB when he was very young, always protected him and was his role model; to the daughter who never was and has always remained present for him; to his wife’s sister, who spent most of her life in psychiatric hospitals, took to him from the first and played an important role in solving an interesting mystery; to his son, who always had different dreams but tried hard to keep in touch; and to his wife, the one and only, the person he cannot live without.
Through his toasts we learn a lot about Maurice, his world, and the changes in Ireland through the years: when he was young life was harsh for farmers, the owners of the big house could behave as if they owned the people around them, school was hard for those who could not learn at the normal rhythm, and a family feud could last for years. Ireland moves with the times, and we hear about his change of circumstances, but he finds it difficult to let go of his wish for revenge and his resentments, of his low self-confidence because he never did well with books (later on in life he realises he suffers from dyslexia), and especially, of his grief and bereavement. He has suffered many losses through life, and he has many regrets, although he has also done some good things, intentionally or not.
Maurice feels real and very familiar, and I think most readers will be reminded of somebody they know. He is not the most sympathetic character at first sight, although he has gone through a lot, and some of his decisions are harsh and mean-spirited. During the book we get to understand what has made him as he is and it is difficult not to feel touched by his narrative, even if we don’t have much in common with him. There are plenty of family secrets revealed, and he learns to let go of the hatred he held for most of his life. The author writes beautifully, and without using complex language manages to convey true feeling and emotions. She gives her character a recognisable and true voice, dry and sharp, with touches of black humour and always understated, even when talking about those dearest to him. There is a beautiful love story at the heart of this novel, and it is very difficult not to feel moved by it. As for the ending… I won’t discuss it in detail, but I don’t think it will come as a surprise to most readers, although what might be surprising is how we feel about it by then.
Although the author is well-known, this is her first novel, and it is a thing of beauty, poetic and sincere. Here I share some examples of her writing:
It’s an awful thing, to witness your mother cry. You cannot cure nor mend nor stick a plaster on.
Forty-nine years ago, I met Molly, and only for fifteen minutes. But she has lived in this dilapidated heart of mine ever since.
I watched her skin survive the years, softly, folding upon itself. I touched it often, still hopelessly loving every bit of her, every line that claimed her, every new mark that stamped its permanency.
Loneliness, that fecker again, wreaking havoc on us mortals. It’s worse than any disease, gnawing away at our bones as we sleep, plaguing our minds when awake.
These past two years have been rotten. I’ve felt the ache of her going in my very bones. Every morning, every hour of every day I’ve dragged her loss around with me. The worst thing has been the fear that I’ll wake one morning and she’ll be gone from my memory forever, and that, son, that, I just can’t do.
This is a gorgeous book that touches on important subjects and deep feelings without going over the top and being sugary sweet. It is not a page turner plot-wise, and there isn’t much action (other than in some of the memories), so it will not suit readers who are looking for a fast plot. But anybody who loves a character-driven novel, enjoys savouring the quality and poetry of good writing and is looking for new authors will have a field day. I am going to follow Anne Griffin’s career with interest, and I expect to hear great things from her.
Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for this fabulous book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep smiling!