Every third or fourth Friday, up till thirty or forty years ago, which is long before milking machines were even heard of, and places not even too far in from the road still didn't have electricity, there used to be autumn fairs in the village of Pallas. After morning milking, the farmers who were selling would gather their heifers and bullocks and hunt them down the fields, along the byroads and the main road to the square in Pallas. For miles around you could hear the cattle lowing along the roads, although louder than them were the shouts of the farmers themselves swinging at and hitting the often restless beasts with their ash sticks.
Out of this carefully constructed pastoral paragraph is spun a web of passion, crime, and guilt that spans all the decades between the time mentioned there and the present, as seen in the memories of a recently widowed middle-aged woman who is riding a train from Dublin back toward her home. Over the course of some forty or more pages we follow the author back and forth across time, until the story emerges out of the evidence of memory, understated and more effective for being so, but frightening in its implications.
Patrick O'Keeffe reads from The Hill Road at Shaman Drum Bookshop on Wednesday, September 14.
[Review published September 2005]