The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan
Adam O’riordan may not be a name you have come across before now but he is an award winning poet having won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award in 2011 for his collection of poems called In the Flesh. A new collection of poetry is being published on 2nd February but earlier this month Adam released through Bloomsbury a wonderful collection of short stories called The Burning Ground so eloquently written that the you become beguiled by each of the eight stories.
To say that this is one of the very best collections of short stories I have read in a long time and it will be hard to beat. There is something about the way that O’Riordan manages to capture the reader’s attention all the way through as if you are holding your breath.
The collection starts ofF with A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica and this is the author capturing you the reader in the palm of his hand and keeping you there as the story of Harvey and his relationship with the delicious Teresa, Harvey sets off to Los Angeles to see Teresa and this is his story from leaving England to fly across the Atlantic and how he then sees a fellow passenger during the flight. It is later when Harvey is alone in the bar do we suddenly realise that he is alone and that his lover is now in England. This is when you realise that O’Riordan has had us in his spell from start to finish without realising.
For me the best of this collection is The El Segundo Blue Butterfly A story of a teenager who sets off to interview the businessman Michael Hogan Bernstein. This story is a masterstroke as it is a timeless piece of writing that anyone who loves short stories must read at some point. For the key character here is Christopher and how the story flows from a young Michael who goes to interview the businessman and then the story moves through the years and the two continue to cross paths. Each chapter in this piece is a unique time period and is just the most eloquent piece of writing I have read and the ending is something to just read and then read again. I have read this short story three times over the last week.
Through the remaining six short stories we move from Rambla Pacifico which I found deeply enjoyable is about a foreman that heads off down the Pacific Coast Highway and heads into trouble and then when his employer’s daughter goes missing the story really comes into its own and you are left not only wondering about the outcome but the people involved.
In Wave-Riding Giants we see the lonely McCauley who is reflecting on his life while in a senior housing complex a moment that he starts to recall his memory charting his life from childhood to adult and that and now at this moment in time he faces confrontation with his memory. Yet another superb told story that I will be revisiting over time.
Black Bear in the Snow start off with the words changed from the hit song from Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring and you know that this is being sung to a baby and the story is primarily about Randall and his wife Thelma and their new born baby called Joey. There are memories here from Randall as he recalls a hunting trip with Joseph his father. This is the story of the father trying to ‘find’ his son again after a divorce. Then later it is revealed that Randall and Thelma split and that Joey is with his mum and so the cycle begins again as Randall takes his son Joey on a trip so that they can ‘connect’ as father and son. I am sure there are many who like me will identify with this story. Deftly and beautifully written.
And so to the story that makes up the title to the book The Burning Ground We see an artist trying to find so peace after a relationship with a married woman. Is the artist on the run from his desire for Alannah? Or just seeking a fresh start but either way there is success for the artist as his work is suddenly find a new fame but the memory of Alannah is still there with every paintbrush she has previously brought for him. This story I found somewhat different in style and pace but still written in a class of its own and it burns into your heart as your reach the stories ending.
With the next story ’98 Mercury Sable it starts with a conversation about car’s and is a story of a couple Sebastian and Sofia and it is Sebastian is learning how to drive at times the story is quite humorous as you would imagine but there is something else about the story and that hit me as I did not see it coming. I think by this time I was hypnotised by O’Riordan’s writing. To say anymore here would be wrong. A must read story.
In the last of the short stories in Magda’s a Dancer when you look at the first page it looks somewhat different in how O’Riordan has approached it. Basically this is a conversation piece it is unique and a clever piece of writing and a unique way of ending the collection again I will not give too much away but to me it worked well and it is worth reading a few times. It does not read as the previous stories but a worthy addition.
The Burning Ground is just a delicious collection of stories that you become hooked on and like me you will want to re-read some of them a second or more times to purely enjoy Adam’s prose. I can only hope that this collection of short stories is a success as it purely deserves to be on merit. It is nothing short of a tremendous collection of unique and differing stories and the characters involved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Ros Ellis at Bloomsbury for the advanced review copy.
The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan is published by Bloomsbury and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.