Published by Sceptre
Publication date – 24 January 2019
Source – review copy
I’m here to remember – all that I have been and all that I will never be again.’
At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual -though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.
Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.
Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.
Maurice Hannigan is at the bar of the hotel he has hated since it opened. He has five toasts planned. Through each toast we find out the stories that make up Maurice’s life. There we see the brother he lost seventy years before, the daughter he met only briefly, his sister-in-law who brought unforseen changes into his life, his son and his beloved wife. With each drink we are taken through Maurice’s life, and the events that lead him to that stool at the bar.
Each toast progresses the story of Maurice’s life. It starts with Tony, his beloved older brother, as we read about Maurice’s family upbringing, his work that shapes him and makes him the man he became. We move on, backwards and forwards from one big event to lots of little ones, that each help make up a picture of the life of Maurice Hannigan.
This is a very gently paced novel. There are no big reveals or huge moments, rather there are lots of little moments, chance meetings and odd occurrances that make up the life of this man, or rather the many lives of the people surrounding them. It is a look at how the people we have in our lives make us who we are, for better or for worse.
Maurice isn’t always that likeable as a character. He is rude, taciturn and willfully beligerent on occasion. However there are many more moments that show him to be a kind and caring man. His toast to Noreen proves that more than the rest. As is the case in life, there are people who Maurice meets who he likes less than others, who are cruel instead of kind, who have only themselves in their thoughts. But also as is the case in real life, these people are as much a necessary part of Maurice as are those who he finds comfort and shelter with.
There is sadness woven throughout the story, as we read about people who are no longer alive. We see Maurice’s life through his losses, both by the death of those he loved but also by the distance he may have put between him and the people who make up his life. It is however, also a happy novel. We see the love that has filled Maurice’s life, made all the more apparent by his reaction to it’s loss. The ending when it comes is inevitable but fitting. I could see what the final scene would be from the opening pages. That does not mean it is any the less impacting as a result. It is a moving end to a book full of moving moments.
When All is Said is a story about love, life and loss, about making the best of what we have and learning to let go of past regrets. A rather tender portrait of living and of grief.
About the author
Anne Griffin is the winner of the John McGahern Award for Literature. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and The Sunday Business Post Short Story Competition, Anne’s work has been featured in, amongst others, The Irish Times and The Stinging Fly. She’s worked in Waterstones branches in both Dublin and London, and for various charities.
Born in Dublin, Anne now lives in Mullingar, Ireland, with her husband and son. When All is Said is her debut novel.