Reviews of Valerie Sirr’s fiction

Douglas Kennedy (Best-selling and internationally renowned US novelist)

Douglas’s judging (with Eilis Ní Dhuibhne) comments on my Hennessy New Irish Writer winning story ‘Summer Rain’: “You can’t accuse the six short-listed writers of shying away from what we call in the States, the Big Stuff. I read Valerie Sirr’s ‘Summer Rain’ on the TGV from Paris to Nantes, and then read it again because I just wanted to see how the writer pulled it off. In the exceptional architecture of the story, you are presented with a perfectly realised portrait of existential rage as it pertains to a compromised life.”

Catherine Smith (UK poet and short story writer)

Catherine’s judging comments on my prize-winning story ‘The Bridge’: “I admired the writer’s confidence in knowing what to leave out – the power of specific imagery to suggest more than was actually stated in the story. In ‘The Bridge’, I admired the risks the writer took with imagery and language, the sense of menace lurking beneath the surface.”

Dermot Bolger (poet and novelist):

“Valerie Sirr’s short fictions brim with truth and home truths, with sharp observations and at times a discomforting accuracy that is the hallmark of a writer of ambition, penetration and rich humanity deeply engaged with the human condition.”

Gerald Dawe (poet, professor & director of M.Phil in Creative Writing, Trinity College):

“There is something eerie and haunting about Valerie Sirr’s fiction. The shadowy lives of her characters, and the often troubled worlds in which they live, are dramatised in the language of today. An edgy and uncertain realism which brings to mind Elizabeth Bowen.”

Seamus Hosey (producer, RTE Radio 1):

“Valerie Sirr is one of the most significant and exciting new voices to emerge on the Irish writing scene in the last few years. She has distinguished herself particularly in the short story, winning prizes in various short story competitions among them the Maurice Walsh Memorial Short Story Competition and the RTE Radio 1 Short Story Competition, including in 2006, when her story ‘The Greatest Gift’ was broadcast from among over 700 entries. She distinguished herself as a participant in the prestigious Trinity College M. Phil. course in Creative Writing. She brings to her writing a serious craftsmanship combined with an imaginative and creative approach to literature and to  life.”

Brendan Kennelly (poet and professor of English Literature):

Re: short story ‘Made You Look’ – “In this strong and grimly eloquent story, Valerie Sirr portrays a view of sex that emerges as a gripping and often chilling collection of opposites: fascination and revulsion, warm intimacy and icy distance, meaningful awareness and numb, dumb unconsciousness. Strangely, running through this grim narrative, there’s a humour that causes a reader both to smile and to appreciate the aloneness that both brings people together and drives them apart. This is accomplished with skill and sensitivity.”

John McKenna (poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist)

John’s judging comments on my prize-winning story ‘Pete’: “a story that is dark but beautifully written. The central character’s mind is a maelstrom and life is a challenge and the writer has captured the internal and external storms that make every day and every night a battle. This is a wonderful story – chilling but full of understated warmth. The relationship built between the central character and his carer is totally credible and written with a lightness of touch that works tremendously well. Getting inside Pete’s head was the real task with this story and the writer has done it wonderfully.”

Mary Morrissy (novelist and short story writer):

Re: short story ‘Made You Look’  – “Normally, I’m a little apprehensive about stories of youthful disaffection because there are so many of them about and sometimes there’s a tendency to believe that simple narration is enough justification for them to be written. Not so with ‘Made You Look’ which is rich with fictional patterning and also allows its character some insight into her predicament. I like the way that you confound the clichéd situation and the character stereotype in this narration. It is the mother, not the father, who’s the power-broker in the relationship and uses language to gain mastery. Similarly, I was convinced that the girl would be raped in the car but, ironically, is spared because the man feels he’s in need of protection from her.

The dialogue and the perceptions of the characters are absolutely fictionally convincing and I like the way the narrative leads back to the playground. The helmet girl image is used very subtly and echoes nicely throughout.”

Review of some of my short stories by Mel Ulm of The Reading Life.

Review of some of my flash fiction by Mel Ulm of The Reading Life

My story ‘Balan’ included in list by readers online of personal favourites in honour of Short Story Month 2013 on Flash Fiction Chronicles