Maeve Brennan’s The Visitor

I came across Maeve Brennan’s novella The Visitor in a used bookstore a few months ago and was thrilled, having just finished a collection of Brennan’s short stories, Springs of Affection. Those stories are all set in the author’s birthplace of Dublin, and through their form and genius, they capture one of the most haunting aspects of those few years called childhood: their literal smallness is at such odds with their profundity. The experience of reading those stories has stayed with me, and I think of them often; and now I find myself thinking over The Visitor frequently too. At under one hundred pages, it is an enormous book about revenge, bitterness, hope and familial love. I would recommend it to anyone, but for those who are interested in that intense, seldom-used form of the novella, it is an amazing gift. The history of the book’s publication underscores just how amazing: the manuscript was only discovered in a university archive after Brennan’s death in 1993.

Originally posted on 5.28.2005