While reading Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton, I felt as if I had joined a dance myself, part of a song beyond the ordinary world I’d left behind. The setting, Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland, lives on every page—the coastal pathways, a midnight pier, a hillside graveyard.
Readers meet one of the main characters, Liam, early, but just like Hailey, the central character, keep wondering when we’ll see him again. Intrigued, I kept reading as a relationship developed. Although a few readers might prefer a more traditionally masculine Liam, not many would object to an Irish version of Heathcliff, who reads poetry and plays traditional music in darkened pubs.
At the same time, Hailey, an American with experience in the record business, takes on a role to build up a music center, fostering the careers of Irish musicians. This plot brings in fully realized supporting characters and rounds out the action. At first, I wished Liam had been more involved in the music center, but I’ve realized his absence let Hailey shine as the independent protagonist she truly is. There isn’t any feeling of a woman needing rescuing about her, and that fact is refreshing.
With the novel told from Hailey’s point of view, readers don’t know fully why Liam alternatively pursues her and then hesitates. Hailey’s independent and compassionate spirit and the realistic way Liam’s character is written make their love story suspenseful and unpredictable.
Within a novel that creates a full story for each character, Hailey, and readers, also learn about another culture -- the linguistic differences of English spoken in Ireland, the names common there, the sights and pubs of Galway, and rural traditions. I traveled via the written word, a gift given from such a well-thought-out work of literary fiction.