Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien

Saints and Sinners
Edna O’Brien
Back Bay Books (2011)
ISBN 9780316122726
Reviewed by Deb Shunamon for Reader Views (9/11)


Those who enjoy Irish writing will find that this collection of intense short stories will shake them up. In “Saints and Sinners,” Edna O’Brien reminds readers that those who have lived through so many decades of conflict cannot so easily change with the times. While the themes in this book may be universal, and American and British places referred to, the words are very much about Irish memories and sorrows.

It was difficult for me to tell the time period of many of the stories in this collection. Not having ever visited Ireland, some appear to be historical while some could well have happened yesterday. But they all left me with the need to take a break after each one to deal with their heavy sadness. There is definitely a sense that the world is changing too quickly for the characters, and they are not ready for it. These stories are of their disappointments and wants, heart-wrenching helplessness, and words and actions left far too late. They are of people who are not ready to, or cannot, move on from their pasts.

“Saints and Sinners” is an emotionally tough but beautiful read, and as usual Edna O’Brien’s writing is exceptional. Her ability to pack so much into so few pages is amazing. I have long admired her, and O’Brien continues to be every bit as great a short story writer as she ever was. This latest collection, although quite sorrowful, is sure to please readers.

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