Red Flowers, at a Wedding?

Tessa Hadley

  • Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan
    Faber, 163 pp, £10.99, May 2007, ISBN 978 0 571 23306 9

In the title story of Claire Keegan’s second collection, Walk the Blue Fields, a priest is officiating at a wedding in rural Ireland: the bride is late, the organist has to play the Bach toccata twice, ‘a thrill of doubt’ is ‘spreading through the pews’. She turns up eventually, and the ceremony goes off all right, but an intimation of trouble has been set reverberating in the reader from the very first sentence: ‘Earlier, the women came with flowers, each one a deeper shade of red.’ Why begin with that word ‘earlier’, which might seem a weak link back out of the story-time? Earlier than when? Why not just begin at the moment the women bring the flowers? And why allow a syntactical ambivalence, so that although it must be the flowers that are ‘each one a deeper shade’, it sounds as though the women themselves are meant, each one redder than the last? And anyway: red flowers, at a wedding?

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