Keeping the Night Watch

by Fred Johnston

Johnston is Irish, which means this collection of short stories has lots of wee things in it, and everyone’s father is called Da.

There is also a fair amount of smoking, pubs, and unemployment. That isn’t necessarily because he’s Irish, but Johnston does have a darker sensibility.

I found the eleven stories in this collection to be uneven. Some never really seemed to come together; I felt as though they went on and on in a series of page-long paragraphs that would get hard to follow. Others, like “Daft” were tighter, gentle, and full of feeling. There were stand out moments, like when the narrator in “Rising Higher” notices a swan briefly alight on a pram:

There was something magical about it. It happened in the middle of the day and maybe I was the only one who noticed. But the image stayed with me for a long time. I felt sort of privileged. Maybe these little secrets come out all around us all the time and we don’t have the time to see them, rolling along as we do, unstoppable.

Bottom line: worth checking out from the library.

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