Cover Image: When All is Said

When All is Said

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Member Reviews

A gentle, easy read with a strong central voice and well-observed character portraits. I didn't connect as well with the present day framework as the individual reminiscences but enjoyed the novel overall.
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Thank you Netgalley for my copy of When All Is Said by Anne Griffin. The story of Maurice truly broke my heart. There were so many times where the tears would not stop pouring. When All Is Said is a story of an elderly man called Maurice Hannigan, looking back over his life. We start in the formative years when he was at school. The old fashioned Ireland was a hard place to grow up especially if you struggled with reading and learning as much as Maurice did. We learn a lot later he struggled because of his dyslexia. He is told to give up education at a tender age and start working. It's there he received the most brutal treatment at the hands of his employers son. What I found emotional was the repetitive and toxic behaviour of the employers son, he beats Maurice as his father beats him. We see the pain and heartbreak Maurice went through when his much loved brother passes away. We recount lots of memories of loss, love and all the emotions e experience over a lifetime. We see Maurice think about the mistakes he's made. He talks of his daughter, he blames himself for her death as instead of immediately taking his wife to hospital he went and closed a business deal. By the time  had made it to hospital the unborn baby was pronounced dead. He talks of his regret and his guilt. 

This is a thought provoking, undeniably Irish and profound read. If I could offer the book more than 5 starts I would. The author has written a beautiful story, one to be very proud of.
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A lovely lilting book beautifully told in a voice that couldn’t be anything but Irish. I was on holiday when I read it and already in a relaxed mood and this book just made me smile. Sad in parts but always poetically written.
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This book stayed with me a long time after I finished it. Three words sum up ‘When All is Said’ by Anne Griffin. Masterful. Emotional. Funny. It is the story of Maurice Hannigan as he sits at a bar one evening. He drinks a toast to five people and tells the story of his life. It is one of those Irish novels which makes your emotions tingle and say ‘yes, it is like that’, which makes tears prick your eyes and laughter rise in your chest. This is Griffin’s debut novel but she is an accomplished prizewinning writer who knows how to tell a story. It is unbearingly touching and will, without fail, make you cry.
Maurice is in the bar of the Rainsford House Hotel in Rainsford, Co Meath, Ireland. At the beginning we don’t know why he is there, the first few pages are an introduction to Maurice, how he feels his age, as he conducts an imaginary conversation with his son Kevin who lives in America. His first drink is a bottle of stout and as he drinks, he tells the story of his brother Tony and their childhood. A key incident in this section has reverberations throughout Maurice’s life and throughout this novel; a gentle reminder that we all may grow old, we may live in the same place or move away, but our childhood and our actions stay with us. We are introduced to Emily, owner of the hotel, and Svetlana, barmaid. Griffin has a talent with sense of place; she makes the hotel come alive. 
Four more drinks follow. For Molly, a glass of Bushmills 21-year old malt. For Noreen, a bottle of stout. For Kevin, a rare whiskey, Jefferson’s Presidential Select. And for his wife Sadie, Maurice drinks a glass of Midleton whiskey. “Svetlana places my final drink down in front of me: Midleton, you can’t fault it. Majestic stuff. I look at it like she has just handed me the keys to a new harvester. It’s the autumn colours that get me. It’s the earth of it, the trees, the leaves, the late evening sky.”
As each story is told, Anne Griffin weaves in the present day so the two strands blend and the past explains Maurice’s situation, why he feels as he does, why he longs for what he longs for. This is a beautiful Irish novel about love, dyslexia, grumpiness, family, bullying, forgiveness and whiskey. I loved it and didn’t want it to end.
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I was completely bowled over by this monologue of an Irish farmer raising a toast to five pivotal people in his life. Doesn’t sound promising? Don’t be fooled, this is the warmest, most poignant, funny, sad story I have read in many a long month. Surprised it is a female author as she writes this man so well. Please read this and admire.
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A beautifully written book and thought provoking. 
The main character Maurice is the narrator of the book who draws you into his life and world while toasting the five people who have impacted his life the most. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey he took me on.
Though emotional and sad at times the book was still a refreshing read. 
This book will stay with me for a long time yet.
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I loved this book, I found it a very compelling, emotional but a refreshing read. Highly recommended. Five stars from me.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Anne Griffin for the advanced copy of this book. I agreed to give my unbiased opinion voluntarily.
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Nice premise, well written & a refreshing character to have as a narrator.  A bit saccharine for me though and the coin plot-line felt forced,
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An absolute refreshing read that was engrossing and thought provoking. I even found myself reading it in an Irish accent! Maurice certainly takes the reader through a rollercoaster ride of emotions Definitely recommended.
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I wonder how many of us could name five people who have shaped our lives?  This beautifully written and evocative tale informs us of the shaping of Maurice’s life. - a life full of sadness and hard work - of bullying and kindness. The twists and turns of this Irish man’s life as he vividly remembers and toasts each iperson with their signature drink, is so enthralling and entertaining that it stayed in my mind as I continued with my life. 
I have recommended this book over and over and will continue to do so as it is well worth reading.
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When All Is Said by Anne Griffin is a book which packs an emotional punch. Over the course of an evening, 84 year old Maurice Hannigan sits in a bar in a local hotel and raises five toasts to five people who were important in his life. Although on his own, he imagines he is telling his son about these five people and through the toasts we learn his life story.

The author's storytelling, while economical, is rich and evocative, and her deft pacing maintains suspense across several narrative arcs spanning multiple time lines. Maurice’s humour, his keen observations on class and family, and his colloquial language, as well as Griffin’s strong sense of place, create the feeling of a life connected to many others by strands of affection and hatred.
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Maurice is spending an evening toasting five people who have shaped his life. He toasts them with different drinks and tells his life story in this beautifully written tale of life in Ireland. The prose is wonderful and we learn how a life is intertwined with others, family, friends and enemies.
I loved Maurice with all his faults and frailties, he was portrayed as a character we can all identify with.
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read such a moving book.
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“Ready now to begin the first of five toasts: five toasts, five people, five memories.....I’m here to remember- all that I have been and all that I will never be again”

We meet 84 year old Maurice Hannigan at the bar of a posh Irish hotel. He is having a night of celebration to toast the five people who meant the most to him over the course of a lifetime. In an imaginary conversation with his son Kevin, who is thousands of miles away in America, Maurice tells his life story over the course of one evening. Telling home truths and things he just could never say to his face. 

This was a very touching and poignant book. I don’t think I’ve read a book from the viewpoint of an elderly gentleman before. It was interesting to hear from the older generation. A reminder of a different time. When boys left school at 12 to work the land. And people didn’t talk about their feelings. 

It also represented the lonely life of a widower and how life changes after the loss of a loved one. He’s not always a likeable character with the decisions he makes and secrets he keeps. And he comes to the realisation that he could have been a better father. 

My favourite part of the book was the toast to his late wife Sadie. The pages come alive and we find out how they first met and started courting. Those pages are filled with life and love. 

So let’s all raise a glass to Maurice Hannigan.
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One night, one man, one life. 
Some stories reach out for your heart, envelop it with warmth and gently speak to it. This is what When All Is Said does. 

Maurice, on a June night, decides to toast to five people, tell their stories and through them, explore his own. What makes a man? Which memories stick with us no matter what? What breaks us? 

Spending time with Maurice is like sitting with an old friend, raising glasses to a time long gone, reminiscing the good and bad. 

I had this vision while reading this poetic and authentic novel. I felt my hand go over Maurice’s face, gently brushing over each scar, each wrinkle, each crease in his features. The honest and naked truth of a man who did his best, who doesn’t try to hide his faults, who assess a life lived. Genuine, powerful, and full of emotions, When All Is Said is a trip down memory lane with a hand firmly grasping the present, offering hindsight on events and people who coloured the days and years of a man. 

The point of those trips to the past is not to give lessons or give us the key to a better life. It is simpler than this. An honest testimony brought to life by a skilled author who has a strong understanding of the human psyche. 

Sitting alone in this bar, Maurice is the perfect portray of loneliness, of weariness. If I loved every chapter and felt tears gathering at the corners of my eyes several times, it is his wife’s absence, and Maurice’s heartbreaking tale of the hole she left that truly had me crying. 

When All Is Said is a brilliant and emotional debut.
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Some books leave me with little to say except I loved the experience of reading them. Maybe I should leave it at that in regards to this particular novel. But it's funny because Anne Griffin's debut novel “When All is Said” is a story that's so dominated by story itself it doesn't invite the reader to do anything but listen in rapt delight. It's told from the perspective of 84 year-old Irish farmer and businessman Maurice who sits in a bar having several drinks to honour people who've had a significant impact upon his life. And the experience of reading this book is like that feeling of listening to an old man brimming with tales to tell: some wickedly funny, some heart-wrenchingly sad and some that come with twists so disarming they left me stunned. So by the end of the book I was left feeling like this man's life had washed over me. I was moved by all his disappointments, passions and sorrows. There's also a blissful sense of release because Maurice is someone who always had difficulty expressing his feelings throughout his life and found it challenging to communicate as he suffered from a learning disability. Like the inverse of a series of reminiscences at a funeral, his narrative at this very late stage in his life is the most beautiful tribute to the people who made him who he is and a profound kind of letting go. 

Naturally, because Maurice has lived so long, he has observed many physical and social changes to his country. Like in John Boyne's “The Heart's Invisible Furies”, part of what's so mesmerising about this man's story is to realize how much things can change in the course of a lifetime. It's shocking now to read how several decades ago a very young man like Maurice who comes from a desperately poor family could go to work on an estate and receive such horrific verbal and physical abuse from the lords of the manor. And this shows so poignantly how feelings of hurt and a desire for revenge can come to dominate a man's life. Maurice also describes why he's had such trouble emotionally opening up and being forthright about what he wants in life: “People didn’t really do that back then, encourage and support. You were threatened into being who you were supposed to be.” For a new generation that's raised with gentle words of encouragement and a sense that you should become the person you're supposed to be, it's quite sobering to realise how difficult it'd be to grow up under such strict tutelage.

Part of the immense pleasure I found in this novel is in it's all-encompassing Irish-ness. And no man is more Irish than Maurice: a straight talking self-made man of the Earth, loyal to his wife, likes a good drink and tells a spellbinding tale. His sensibility mixes humour with sorrow, humility with the grandiloquent and irony with the utmost sincerity. These dualities make his tales so bewitching and pleasurable to read. Perhaps he sums up his own feelings for the people closest to him best when describing the relationship that existed between his wife and her mother: “There was a love but of the Irish kind, reserved and embarrassed by its own humanity.” But here in this novel he finally divulges his experiences and unvoiced feelings to commemorate all the details of his fascinating life.
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When All Is Said is Anne Griffin's debut novel.  This is gorgeous book that will pull at your heartstrings and should come with a box of tissues; you have been warned.  This is a character driven novel and focuses on Maurice who is eighty four and sitting the bar of The Rainford House Hotel.  During the evening he makes five toasts, with either stout or whisky, to five people who have been important in his life. Written in the first person narrative, Maurice addresses his toasts, and the reminisces of his life to his only son Kevin, who lives in America.

When All Is Said is a beautiful book about life and death, love and loss, success and failure and hopes and dreams.  As Maurice recounts his memories, the first person narrative has the effect of bringing the reader into his life, being part of the good and the bad that life dealt him.  What really came through for me, and tugged at my heartstrings, was his sense of loneliness and isolation after the death of his wife, with no other family around and not wanting to be a burden to his son.

Anne Griffin has a brilliant understanding of the the human psyche and is able to bring out the emotion of this book and make it feel personal and heartfelt. The prose is lyrical as it takes the reader on a journey through Ireland's history, as well as Maurice's history, with wonderful attention to detail. This is not a hurried tale, Anne Griffin gives Maurice time to tell his tale and contemplate on what his life has been. There are many laugh out loud moments as Maurice is no saint, in particular with his revenge on the Dollard family, his enemies since he was ten years old.

When All Is Said is simply a beautiful, poignant and reflective read on one man's life.  Anne Griffin uses words to paint an intimate portrait of Maurice, that shows the good and the bad and the highs and the lows.  By the end of the book I was reading with tears rolling down my cheeks, and almost wanted to put the book down and remain in ignorance, but I'm glad I didn't.  This is a truly remarkable read and one I highly recommend.
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A well written book, describing life in Ireland through the eyes of one man.
Unfortunately I couldn't get out of my head how this format has been done before and done very well by Mitch Albom.
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I was sent a copy of When All is Said by Anne Griffin to read and review by NetGalley.
What a beautiful book!  It, to me, is typically Irish in style – gentle storytelling at its best. Told in the first person it is the life story of 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan as he sits at the bar and toasts the people who have meant the most to him. His tale is told to his son but through his thoughts not words, his son being thousands of miles away in America.  He tells of all the aspects of his life that he has never been able to voice in person, both of pride and regret, love and joy.  This is a truly special piece of writing and definitely one for fans of John Boyne and the like.
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A slow start to this but I’m glad I persevered. The voice of the main character is the driving force of this novel. Maurice sits at the bar of a hotel he half owns, drinking five toasts and telling the story of his life. From humble beginnings, facing humiliations and devastating loss until he makes something of his life and tries to find revenge. And yet, this isn’t a ‘revenge’ type book. It’s one man’s misguided grudges and lack of empathy for others, until later in life. Maurice is an old git, but entertaining and strong willed. His end is not a surprise but still moving nontheless. An excellent debut.
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Hard to believe that this is a debut novel; the writing is so relaxed and fluid that at times I felt that I was not so much reading a book as listening to its central character as he chatted to me in the bar of an Irish hotel.

The man in the bar is 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan and the hotel has played a large role in his long life, since the day he left school to work there when it was the local Big House.   Bullied by his employer and his sadistic son, he grew up to take his revenge by buying up the family land.   A hard man, you might think, left with memories to share.   An early remark might give you an idea of the man - “Not that we were the perfect couple. But we were good, you know.  Solid and steady.  At least that's how it felt for me.  I never asked her, mind.”   He is such a well-drawn character that I'm not sure I didn't meet him once or twice when I worked in Belfast fifty years ago.   His money, won by years of hard graft and shrewd dealings in land, has done nothing to smooth the rough corners of his childhood.

Maurice has plans for the evening, specifically to offer five toasts to the five people who have shaped  his life: a bottle of stout for his elder brother Tony, whom he hero-worshipped until Tony's early death, a glass of Bushmills 21-year malt whiskey for his daughter Molly who survived for only 15-minutes of life, a second bottle of stout for Noreen, his wife's mentally ill sister, then on to a second whiskey (21-year-old Jefferson's Presidential Select which Google tells me sells for an average £350 a bottle) in honour of his son Kevin, now a journalist in America with whom he has had a difficult relationship, thanks to his very Irish personality - “we tunnel ourselves deeper into our aloneness. Solving problems on our own.”

The fifth and final toast, another whiskey – Midleton Very Rare – honours his wife Sadie and triggers his bittersweet memories of their long marriage and the two years to the day since her death, two years which include some of the funniest episodes in the book.   .That's the point where you have to accept as a reader that Maurice isn't talking to you, he's talking to that son of his, rather in awe of him and wondering how he, as a hard-headed, greedy, dyslexic Irish farmer could have sired such a talented wordsmith.

Toasts drunk, Maurice retires to the hotel's honeymoon suite where his marriage to Sadie began.   The bottle of Midleton by his side, he writes to his son “I'm ready for your mother now. Ready for her by my side again.   It's a risk, I know. …. But anything, anything has to be better than this life without her.”   Not such a hard man, after all.
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