When All Is Said

When All Is Said


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.

Our Review

Anne Griffin has written a wonderful debut novel that is sure to win her many fans. When All is Said is a unique treasure of a book and one that is definitely going to make it on to my list of favourite novels of 2019.

There are few surprises in this book it is just a simple story told in conversational style, a man explaining a decision to his absent son.

Maurice Hannigan is sat alone in a hotel bar when the tale begins. Over the course of the evening he toasts five people who have had a significant impact on his life and will have an impact on the reader during the course of their reading: his brother Tony, his sister-in-law, his daughter Molly, his son Kevin and his late wife Sadie.

When All is Said is a poignant story of love and loss, feuds and revenge, and regrets. Each element of the story builds an unforgettable tale.

Maurice is not a one-dimensional character, there are things you will love about him and also plenty of things to dislike, but each one adds up to a character with a unique voice. Each of the people mentioned in his toasts contribute to this loveable rogue of a character and those he has lost along the way will have a profound impact on the reader.

Often when I read a book the voice I read it in is my own but in this case the voice in which I read had a very distinctive Irish accent. One of the strongest features of When All is Said is the clear picture it creates of the traditional features associated with Ireland.

The novel begins with a classified add for a rare coin with the person who placed it being willing to pay any amount for it. It then goes on to Maurice sat in the hotel bar contemplating his life and the changes in him as a physically and emotionally over the years.

“there’s me now in the corner, like the ‘feckin eejit who wouldn’t get his head out of shot. And what a head it is. It’s not often I look in the mirror these days. When your mother was alive I suppose I made a bit of an effort but sure what difference does it make now? I find it hard to look at myself. Can’t bear to see it- that edge, you know the one I mean – haven’t you been on the receiving end of it enough over the years.”

Before we are very far along into the story it becomes clear that all isn’t right with our seemingly jovial narrator. This is a man very much in the throws of grief, a man who has had a lot of experiences of bereavement in his life, but the loss of his wife is one he is unable to bear. There are very clear signs that he is contemplating ending his life such as selling the farm he has lived on all his life and giving away his dog to a family who don’t live locally and won’t ask questions.

When he gives away the dog, he almost changes his mind at the last minute but forces himself not to.

“Instead I kept on moving, mumbling away trying to block out the weight of another ending, another loss in this worn-out life of mine.”

One of the most poignant losses Maurice has faced is the loss of his brother and best friend Tony when he was still a young boy, a loss he has felt more keenly since his wife died two years previously.

“It’s his living presence I’ve missed the most since your mother left. And no amount of talking to him in my head can take the place of being able to see the man, to touch the skin and bone of him, to hear the him sup a pint in Hartigan’s. What I wouldn’t give for just one hour of his company. No need for much conversation at all. Our elbows at the counter. A bottle of stout each in front of us. Half empty glasses. Looking out at the town. Tapping our feet to the music and not having to pretend all is fine. Being allowed to be a feckin mess. The feeling of his pat on my back as he passes behind me to the john. Is it too much to ask for a simple resurrection?”

The above is one of many passages in which Anne Griffin ably demonstrates the secondary losses often felt and left unacknowledged when someone is grieving. This is just one of many reasons why I adored When All is Said.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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