Where Have You Been? by Joseph O’Connor
Where Have You Been?
Joseph O’Connor is a gifted storyteller. Orchard Street, Dawn, a heartbreaking story of the death of a five-month-old baby, is set in New York in 1869, but the rest of these stories have a contemporary setting, with mostly fragile characters tenderly portrayed. Eddie in Two Little Clouds, set in Dublin at the height of the Celtc Tiger madness, seems nothing but a braggart, but he’s a self-deceiving one. There are stories here about broken marriages and the tender love of sons for fathers (familiar themes in O’Connor’s writings). That love is most movingly and impressively expressed in The Wexford Girl (probably the finest story in the collection) but dissipated somewhat in the final, overlong part of the novella that gives the book its title. O’Connor has a wonderful ear for dialogue and is a master of the telling phrase (one female character has a smile that “includes stoicism displayed against the ghost of old hurts”) and the colourful comparison (a male character has “a face like Michelangelo . . . and a neck like a jockey’s bollocks”).