Review: When All is Said by Anne Griffin

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Blurb:

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. 

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My thoughts:

When All is Said is one of the most beautiful and poignant stories ever to be written.

It follows Maurice, an 84-year-old Irish man, throughout the course of one evening. It’s set in a hotel bar in Meath, which holds a lot of memories in the man’s past.

The farmer raises five toasts to the people who have impacted his life the most. Each chapter is a new toast, revealing how each person shaped the man he has become.

Loss is a huge part of the novel but even though there is a lot of sadness, Griffin, the author, doesn’t hold back on funny moments. Maurice still has a good sense of humour, this includes his continuous feud over a parking spot with one of the other locals and acknowledging his wife fell for his voice and not his looks.

I particularly liked the scenes between Maurice and his son. They have a strange relationship, one that would seem quite distant but I think it is clear that there is a lot of love there between the two men. Maurice seems to find it fascinating that his son comes home to visit him and does all the “handyman” jobs, even though while growing up his son was more of a writer, the complete opposite of his dad. This quote sums up their relationship and many of his other relationships in the novel perfectly, “There was a love but of the Irish kind, reserved and embarrassed by its own humanity”.

Maurice is a really likeable character. He is kind and relatable. He’s one of those who will stick with the reader for a long time as if he’s a real person. One of the best things about the character is that he is strong and brave even though he dealt with some violence and heartache as a youngster. He is a stubborn man too, but that just makes him more human. This is shown by his refusal to read any of his son’s articles despite being proud of him.

The book focuses on every emotion a person may feel in a lifetime – from guilt, loneliness and love. I think the way the author writes about grief and death of loved ones is unvarnished, so true to real life that it makes it a very heartrending read because everyone has dealt with that loss on some level. One of my favourite quotes in the novel is, “No one really knows loss until it’s someone you love. The deep-down kind of love that holds on to your bones and digs itself right in under your fingernails, as hard to budge as the years of compacted earth.”

If you pick up any book this year, make it this one. The author tells a magnificent yet emotional tale that will linger in the back of your mind days after finishing the final page. The fact that the ending lives up to the rest of the story is also a bonus.

Rating: 5/5

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2 thoughts on “Review: When All is Said by Anne Griffin

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