Tinged with melancholy but rooted in resiliency, the exquisite stories of Bernard MacLaverty’s Blank Pages display the perseverance of the human spirit. In “A Love Picture,” a middle-aged woman, already no stranger to loss, consults a World War II newsreel to determine the fate of her son. “Blackthorns” tells of a poor, out-of-work Catholic man who falls gravely ill in the sectarian Northern Ireland of 1942 but is brought back from the brink by an unlikely savior. The harrowing but transcendent “The End of Days” imagines life in another pandemic as artist Egon Schiele and his wife, both stricken with the Spanish flu, spend their final days together. And in the poignant title story, an elderly writer takes stock of what remains after losing his life partner.
Blank Pages elegantly probes MacLaverty’s signature themes—domestic love, Catholicism, the Troubles, aging—with compassion and insight. A consummately gifted storyteller, MacLaverty uncovers the turbulent undertones of seemingly ordinary human interactions and explores endings of all kinds with tenderness, affection, and wry humor.
Acclaimed for his extraordinary emotional range and “telescopic observational powers” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal), MacLaverty captures the joys and sorrows of everyday existence in crystalline, precise prose. Each resonant story in Blank Pages reminds us again why he is regarded as one of the greatest living Irish writers.