The attractive poetic title' Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves' of Dianne Ascroft's latest collection of short stories indicates the common thread of country life. They have a timeless quality, set against a backdrop of rural Ireland.
Romance and family life in tight-knit communities are universal themes of these beautifully crafted stories. The old worldiness of Ireland is depicted in characters as well as soft enduring landscapes. The Book cover reflects this.
As Canadian who has settled in Northern Ireland, Dianne draws on her experience in some instances. "Going Home' is about a young girl who is about to return to her life in Belfast after visiting her mother in Toronto. It explores an acceptance of the present and letting go of the past.
"Karen thought of her soft-spoken mother-in-law. She had felt welcome at her mother-in-law's white-washed, two-storey farmhouse from the early days, soon after she had moved to Ireland, when she was still treated as a guest and not allowed to help with anything."
In `Much more than a Dancer' the central character battles with self-doubt and her feelings for the local bank manager. She has inherited her father's farm and is managing it herself.
"Catherine looked away, unsure whether she wanted him to notice her or not. She rushed past, keeping her eyes straight ahead and her face an inscrutable mask."
`Conquering the Shadows' aptly describes a mother's fear of the dark and her protective attitude towards her children.
"As a child on her family's farm she had shuddered as she carried buckets of milk to sick calves in the byre on dark winter afternoons."
These are lovely stories to dip into or in my case read straight through. They have a gentle quality, and at the same time give a perceptive insight into Irish country life.