As Long as it Takes eBook

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by Maria C. McCarthy

As Long as it Takes gives voice to the lost generation of Irish women who sailed to England to look for work in the middle of the twentieth century. Maura Flaherty and her daughters struggle with identity, belonging, love, sexuality and grief – and dilemmas such as whether to like punk or Elvis.

With no concessions to nostalgia or sentimentality, this deeply moving and beautifully written book, by a second-generation Irish writer, tells the interwoven stories of an immigrant family. Maria C. McCarthy skilfully weaves the historical and cultural significance of Anglo-Irish relations into a half-century of family life.


978-1-9164128-4-2. Cultured Llama. eBook. September 2018. Short Stories. £5.99


 

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Maria C. McCarthy was born in Ewell, Surrey in 1959, and raised by Irish parents. Her Irish heritage features strongly in her poetry, stories and her columns for BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths (written and broadcast as Maria Bradley).  She has an MA with distinction in creative writing from the University of Kent. She was the winner of the Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Trust Award 2015 for her short story ‘More Katharine than Audrey’, which features in As Long as it Takes.

Her website is Maria’s website


Reviews of the 2014 paperback edition

Maria C. McCarthy was the winner of the Society of Authors Tom-Gallon Trust Award 2015. The winning story, ‘More Katharine than Audrey’, appears in Maria’s collection of linked short stories, As Long as it Takes. Here are the judges’ remarks:

The writer weaves a sensual, tactile, restrained and ultimately very stylish story of loss cut through with make-belief. Because the writing is so clean, and the handling of pace so clever, the story is allowed to tell itself. It’s an unusual, rich and extremely satisfying picture of lives not lived, but ‘dreamed of’. Elanor Dymott

Impressively compressed. Aamer Hussein

Charles Lambert, author of With a Zero at its Heart  (The Friday Project, 2014), on Twitter:

@charles_lambert

Touched and impressed by hard-won truths and restrained emotional precision of As Long as it Takes. An excellent book. Definitely recommended.

Pauline Masurel reviews As Long as it Takes for The Short Review.

These stories feature a cast of characters from an extended family which overlap to form a collage of lives that relate to each other while every story works individually as a distinct whole.  They shine a light into the commonplace of families and friends, but also the more extraordinary corners of human experience, such as a homeless man who acts as a catalyst for ‘Love’ in the story of the same name. And in ‘More Katherine Than Audrey’, a story about Noreen, who was confined in a mental hospital for being a typhoid carrier. In other stories, it is the objects featured in them which act as totems for all sorts of emotions. A mirror, a christening gown, a comb, a child’s tea-set or a set of Russian dolls: these things can be enough to set off a whole story. In fact, As Long as it Takes is a bit like a nest of Russian dolls, with one woman packed inside another woman, each helping to contain or release or the other.

William Skinner reviews As Long as it Takes for Writers’ Hub.

McCarthy shares with William Trevor a profound melancholy and her tales, like the Irish landscape eternally showered with soft yet invasive rain, are similarly saturated in shame, sacrifice, and secret sorrow. Unlike Mavis Gallant’s characters, who extol the virtue of wit in despair, McCarthy’s young protagonists, caught between cultural extremes, seem to be, as Roger Waters suggests in that archetypal 1970s artefact The Dark Side of the Moon, ‘hanging on in quiet desperation’, a state he asserts is ‘the English way’. Yet these tales of identities and cultures gently eroding in the memory and across time, labyrinthine in their interplay and connected by umbilical threads, offer no possibility of escape from the minotaur that is Ireland.

Fiona Sinclair reviews As Long as it Takes for London Grip.

I particularly enjoyed the way McCarthy interweaves the narratives of different family members throughout several tales. In this way we are able to see events from different perspectives. There is also a strong sense of the links between generations. We begin to recognise familiar names, such as Maggie or Maura, which strengthens the reader’s emotional ties with the characters and their lives. For me the stories of young women in the 70s especially resonated, taking me back to shared experiences such as Saturday jobs in Woolworths , pick-and-mix counters and of course the music of the time.

Nancy Gaffield, from the Save As Prose Competition 2011 Adjudicator’s Report. First Place: ‘A Tea Party’

I loved this story on first reading, and I loved it even more with each subsequent reading. It is an intimate tale of an Irish family in England. The home is full to bursting with children, until the mother withholds sex, and the father takes a mistress. All of this is witnessed with unflinching tenderness through the eyes of a child. As her impressions accumulate, we build up a complete picture of the family’s life, their secrets and circumstances. Tightly-wrought, the point of view is skilfully developed and sustained, bringing the reader to a logical (but not predictable) conclusion. There are no concessions to nostalgia or sentimentality here–it is charming, funny, truthful, quirky and deeply moving.

Stewart Brown (external examiner, MA in Creative Writing, on four stories from Maria’s collection As Long As it Takes)

This is a well-made and thoughtful collection of linked short stories on the theme of Irish migration. The stories are subtle and sophisticated, the characters well drawn and the world they occupy made vivid for the reader. Miss McCarthy handles the emotional and moving material very well, these are never mawkish or sentimental stories and the larger themes the stories inevitably touch on are implied and suggested rather than addressed directly. The writing overall is of a high standard and I can well imagine that these stories might form the basis of a published collection in due course.

Sarah Jackson, (‘Save As’ Prose Competition 2009, Judge’s Report).1st Prize

And I’ve given first place to ‘Cold Salt Water’ for its stunning rendering of voice. From the first words, as a young man ‘comes in with his shirt splattered with blood’, the author of this piece grabs us with economic and yet effective dialogue: ‘”Honest to God, Kieran.”’ Kieran’s response to his mother captures the relationship aptly: “Don’t fuss, Mum,” he says like it’s nothing to walk in your house with you nose spread across your face.’ Depicting Anglo-Irish relations, this is a deceptively simple story, offering an account of a family struggling to cope with identity and difference through the eyes of a mother. The central image of a blood-stained shirt soaking in cold salt water haunts the story, and as the narrator ‘push[es] it down so it’s covered’, we’re reminded of the ways in which historical, cultural and domestic violence is often pushed down, again and again, until it’s covered. It’s a quietly shocking story, beautifully written with a powerful voice, and thoroughly deserves to win this competition.

Moniza Alvi, author of At the Time of Partition (2013)

…so many of your poems are sharp and moving, richly suggestive with evocative details.

Endorsements of the 2014 paperback edition

Martina Evans, author of Petrol (Anvil 2012):

Dark, impeccably minimalistic stories about immigrant Irish mothers and their English-born daughters. The mothers belong to the ‘lost generation’ of Irish workers who emigrated to England in the middle of the last century. They call Ireland ‘home’ and inflict old-fashioned Catholic morals on their English daughters growing up in a more liberated time and culture. Out of this tension comes a series of stories written from the perspective of several women family members, transcending these painful differences with their courageous humour and absolute refusal to look away. The stories reinforce each other and create memorable echoes, reverberating in the mind long after the book is closed.

Susan Wicks, author of A Place to Stop (Salt 2012):

Read individually, these stories might seem modest: each cuts its small piece of cloth and lays it out with truthfulness, understanding and warmth. But characters recur and situations illuminate one another, so that when we read them together we find ourselves inside the story of a whole community of Irish immigrants, suddenly faced, as the protagonists are, with the tellingly displaced expectations and longings of a generation of women and their legacy to the generations that succeeded them. Maria C. McCarthy knows how to tell this complex story, and she tells it with humanity and imagination. The thoughts, speech and actions of her characters make them intensely alive.

Stewart Brown, author of Tourist, Traveller, Troublemaker: Essays on Poetry (Peepal Tree Press 2007):

This is a well-made and thoughtful collection of linked short stories on the theme of Irish migration. The stories are subtle and sophisticated, the characters well drawn and the world they occupy made vivid for the reader. Maria C. McCarthy handles the emotional and moving material very well, these are never mawkish or sentimental stories and the larger themes the stories inevitably touch on are implied and suggested rather than addressed directly.

 

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