Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Sisters" by James Joyce

It's time to get back into the Sort Story Monday routine. Sometime last week, I stumbled upon Tony's Reading List and his review of Dubliners by James Joyce. It reminded me that my own copy, which I'd purchased more than a year ago figuring it would be a 'gentler' introduction to Joyce, was still waiting on the shelf. Tony convinced me to take it down and at least read the first story.
I found themes in "The Sisters" that I expected (death, religion/priests), but was surprised at its accessibility. It starts:

"There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I has passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse."

The narrator soon learns the old priest has indeed died and, as he listens to a conversation between his aunt, uncle and Old Cotter, tries not to betray his emotions as he hears them say the priest taught him a great deal and had a "great wish" for him. In the evening, he visits the "house of mourning" with his aunt. They are received by the priest's two sisters. A detailed account of the conversation follows.

This story was like a fascinating snapshot - a picture of an event/moment that just ends abruptly. I will be reading more stories from Dubliners this week.

Visit John at The Book Mine Set to see who else is talking about short stories today, or leave a link to your own.


  1. Oh that does sound intriguing doesn't it! I must check the library catalogue to see if we have any short stories by Joyce. I've read more short stories in the past few months than during my whole life.

  2. It does sound very entertaining!

    I have an award for you!

  3. Dubliners is one of my favorite books. Enjoy!

  4. Dubliners doesn't seem as obscure and scary as Ulysses, does it? I should tackle this one first, and, as usual, you have brought to my attention yet another great read!

  5. Darlene - Short stories are a relatively new thing for me, too. I read a couple last spring (the first since high school) and was hooked!

    Hmsgofita - Thank you!! I'll be right over.

    DS - Dubliners has been such a surprise! I can see why it's one of your favorites, and am looking forward to another story tonight.

    Matt - It's not at all scary, although I was expecting it to be. Joyce has always seemed so intimidating, but Dubliners is actually very approachable.

  6. I have an old copy of Dubliners on the shelf (cost - $1.45!!) and I'll read The Sisters next week for Short Story Monday, and come back and read more seriously what you've written.

  7. Nan - It's a very short story, not more than 10 pages. I read the second one last night. So far, I am pleasantly surprised.. .was expecting them to be much more convoluted.

  8. I feel like I might need a PHD to read this author...would I?

  9. I read Dubliners for similar reasons. Thought it would be a good entry point for Joyce. And I really enjoyed them, but still never managed to read anything else. So far anyway!

  10. Staci - That's what I thought, too, but it doesn't seem to be true for Dubliners. Now maybe for Ulysses...

    Jo - I may not get beyond this for quite some time (if ever!), but at least I've read a little bit of Joyce.


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