By Anne Devlin
151 pages
London: Faber and Faber, 1986.
ISBN # 0-571-14816-6

Comments of Bob Corbett
September 2002

The Way-Paver is a collection of 9 short stories which had much more promise than delivery. There is a central character who seems to be in most of the stories, a woman who is a member of the IRA and is active in terrorist activities. Anne Devlin obviously knows a great deal about the underground and secret activities of the IRA, but her writing simply didn’t work for me and I ended up frustrated and often confused, not really knowing what was going on in the stories.

There is a recurring mode of writing which consistently left me in confusion: Devlin will have two events going on, one in the current time and another from a number of years in the past. They are different and she doesn’t relate the two events in any specific manner, yet the implication is that the older event somehow illuminates the contemporary event. In virtually every case she was never able to make the connection between the events clear to me thus the stories had this bizarre set of two seemingly unrelated events going on which was most distracting and left the stories without any point.

Further, her writing of dialogue left me astonished. Most of the stories have scenes in which there are several persons present. Dialogue is going on and I was unable to figure out who in the world was talking, again, making it nearly impossible for me to figure out what was going on.

Of all the many many comments on this page this is only the second non-Haiti book which I have commented on with a strongly negative judgment. When reading books on Haiti I feel the obligation to read them and comment on them whether I like them or not. But with other books if I don’t like them by, oh say the first 1/3, then I will often just put the book aside. I am not pressured to read any particular books, so, with so many books and so little time, I am inclined to read books I am finding rewarding. However, this week I was on jury duty and found myself off in the courtroom waiting for something to happen and finishing the book I was reading. This was the only “spare” I had along and by the time the long day was over I had finished it before I could get to my library for something more rewarding.

Bob Corbett

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Bob Corbett