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Reviewed by Carla Trueheart for Readers' Favorite
Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton tells the story of Hailey, an American who lands a job at a music centre in Ireland. Hailey helps local musicians organize their careers at the music centre, but she also has friends at the centre as well. Throughout the story, Hailey helps her friends, she thrives in the culture and landscape of Ireland, and she relays the beautiful land and the residents of Ireland through introspection, providing insight about the many people she meets. The heart of the story, however, is Liam, a shy and withdrawn musician who steals Hailey’s heart. Hailey is confused by Liam’s behavior, and the two find they are similar in the ways they avoid talking to each other and telling each other how they truly feel.
Sometimes an author connects with their subject so well that it is evident in the story. Author Claire Fullerton gives many details of Irish life and culture, and the reader does feel very much inside the Irish landscape, hearing the voices of Irish residents, and breathing in the fresh Irish air. There is much to like in Dancing to an Irish Reel, from the inner thoughts of Hailey to the budding romance between Hailey and Liam. I would have loved a little more spark between the two, but my take is that the book was more about Hailey’s journey in Ireland than her Irish romance. I enjoyed the little scenes that captured the magic of Ireland, such as the Tarot card reader and the unique music. The dialogue was spot on for the area, and I did enjoy the many characters and their interactions with Hailey. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a relaxed, sit back and read book, and is recommended to those who like stories with light romance and cultural commentary.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Better than Colm Tóibín
ByColm Herronon August 31, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Claire Fullerton has Ireland in her heart and on her mind and in her bones. And Dancing to an Irish Reel, her heartcatching novel about that country, captures so much about the many-spendoured and mystical land that it is. I've lived in Ireland for most of my life and in the three days I took to read this book I absorbed things about my country that left me in awe of Fullerton. On one level this is a gripping and unpredictable love story but on several other levels it reaches deep into the music, moods, landscapes and psyche of a country steeped in a rich and tragic culture.
5.0 out of 5 stars
ByMolly Flanderson June 25, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
On the surface a romance story in the beautiful location of the Irish West coast - a place I truly love myseld. However, this book provides much more substance than I had expected. The main characters are quite different from each other and their unlikely romance kicks off and it doesn't. I don't want to say much more about the story and spoil it.
The characters are what interests me, and what makes the book so fascinating. Fullerton has created two fresh and interesting ones, full of contrasts and bite. Realistic, full of beautiful descriptive detail and wonderful language, this is a lovely read and one that invites reflection and pondering. I loved the ending. Well done
The story revolves around Hailey, an American with celtic roots, and is told from her perspective. She came to Ireland on holiday and stayed on, working as part of a team of four, for the Galway Music Centre, looking for, and helping, aspiring musicians. Hailey has settled into the community and is getting used to the laid back approach, differences in lifestyle and the small town feel where everyone knows everyone else’s business. She’s made good friends, most notably Shannon who also works at the music centre, and Mick and Gabrielle, her neighbours who ‘lived deep in the bog’ behind her cottage.
When Hailey meets the darkly handsome Liam Hennessy, the contrast is even more apparent. Liam is a musician, not one for straight talking or letting his feelings be known when it comes to love or commitment. Hailey is self-confident and natural in her relationships and comfortable with herself. They are complete opposites and Hailey’s frustration with Liam’s awkward internal conflict and the misunderstandings it causes, is delivered extremely well. Liam is unable to take the relationship further or completely withdraw from it. Hailey is very attracted to him but struggles to interpret or understand Liam’s behaviour.
Written from Hailey’s point of view, the narrative makes following her life in Ireland intimate and interesting. I like the fact the romance is convoluted, it kept me guessing, and it’s Hailey who has the strength of character against Liam’s capriciousness and confusion. Each of the very well defined and unique characters have a distinct and individual voice and personality, they are very realistic. I love the mysticism and folklore threaded throughout and the way music is so necessary and important in Irish culture.
The story is well crafted, beautifully phrased and woven together with rich descriptions of the Irish landscape, particularly Connemara and Galway City, which invoke strong images and atmosphere of the country and it’s people. Claire Fullerton’s authentic observations and detailing give a real sense of this beautiful place and make the book a delight to read.
While reading Dancing to an Irish Reel, I felt as if I had joined a dance myself, part of a song beyond the ordinary world I’d left behind. The setting, Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland, lives on every page—the coastal pathways, a midnight pier, a hillside graveyard.
Readers meet one of the main characters, Liam, early, but just like Hailey, the central character, keep wondering when we’ll see him again. Intrigued, I kept reading as a relationship developed. Although a few readers might prefer a more traditionally masculine Liam, not many would object to an Irish version of Heathcliff, who reads poetry and plays traditional music in darkened pubs.
At the same time, Hailey, an American with experience in the record business, takes on a role to build up a music center, fostering the careers of Irish musicians. This plot brings in fully realized supporting characters and rounds out the action. At first, I wished Liam had been more involved in the music center, but I’ve realized his absence let Hailey shine as the independent protagonist she truly is. There isn’t any feeling of a woman needing rescuing about her, and that fact is refreshing.
Within a novel that creates a full story for each character, Hailey, and readers, also learn about another culture—the linguistic differences of English spoken in Ireland, the names common there, the sights and pubs of Galway, and rural traditions. I traveled via the written word, a gift given from such a well-thought-out work of literary fiction.
Ah Ireland! Just thinking of Ireland makes me wistful. Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton is a story of a young woman, Hailey, who takes a trip to Ireland and ends up staying, albiet illegally as her visa expired, and working in an Irish music business helping to bring exposure to local talents. While there she meets a young talented traditional musician, Liam. Liam is a very quiet, reserved and broody young man and Hailey develops an attraction to him.
The author weaves a wonderful story of Ireland, it's people and customs along with the two main characters, Hailey and Liam. With descriptive narratives, you can almost imagine that you are there and smell the peat bog and feel the mist on your skin! I really enjoyed this story and hope to read more by this author! Want a taste of Ireland? Then this read is a must!
This is a lovely book, written in beautifully-crafted prose wrought with imagery and emotion. I haven't been lucky enough to travel to Ireland yet, but I hope it's the way Fullerton describes it here. The details she offers through the eyes of Hailey paint a charming picture of a delightful place inhabited by authentic characters. Hailey herself was a believable and sympathetic narrator; I found myself relating to her struggles and frustrations many times through the course of the story. Fullerton also does a wonderful job capturing the nuances of a blossoming relationship, and the wistful tempest of emotions a new romance so often brings about. If you want to escape somewhere beautiful for a few hours - read this book. ♥
Format: Kindle Edition
Dancing To An Irish Reel is narrated by the main character, Hailey who as an American in Ireland quickly finds herself a little niche in the music world where she struggles to help organize the somewhat chaotic organization she works for.
The struggle she finds at work is mirrored in her private life when she meets Liam. Liam is the type of man who could be described as unattainable and he appears to make himself deliberately so.
Their relationship can be described as one that never quite takes off. You feel for Hailey as she struggles to comprehend the hot and cold treatment she receives from this man although you also long for her to realize that his attitude towards her is not a cultural thing, the behavior is specific to the man in question and the man in question is simply not mature enough for a real relationship.
The strengths in this novel lay in the convincing writing. You feel like you are reading part of Hailey's autobiography - the book does not read as fiction.
Dancing To An Irish Reel is an enjoyable story and Claire Fulleteron has a very distinctive style of writing that compels the reader to keep turning the page.
The author captures the heart and soul of the Irish people as she weaves a delightful story. You feel like you are actually in Ireland as you enjoy the lovely descriptions of the beautiful countryside! I enjoyed getting to experience Ireland through the extremely talented writings of the author.
Dancing to an Irish Reel was a relaxed yet exciting read from beginning to end. Claire Fullerton provides extensive and flawless detail in the descriptions of landscape as well as with the characters in the the book. She allows the reader to take an interesting look into the ends and outs of new love set in a what appeared to be a quaint and vintage Irish town. I enjoyed the way in which the story demonstrated how intricate new relationships can become and the subtle challenges one can face when living in a new relationship. I expecially enjoyed chapter ten as there were several complex interactions between main characters that created intrigue and antciticipation as to what would happen next in their romance. Overall, the story was an in depth look at how simple yet complex the dance between two people can become when attempting to maneuver through steps of a new romance. Loved it!
An L.A. exec escapes to Ireland for some soul and life searching and meets a young local Irish musician new to love. Claire Fullerton writes two stories with one theme. While Hailey learns about Ireland, the place she calls home, and comes to understand it, so does she slowly begin to understand Liam. Both of these have mysteries to her and she can't help be drawn to them.
This story doesn't fall into the traps of the usual romance that so many people think of. A lot of common sense in the leading lady of Hailey. I greatly enjoyed the way Fullerton teaches about Ireland the things we don't normally get to learn and does so by having the characters tell us, not by her telling us.
I love this book for the layers of character development, the supporting cast and the way they are used to not only move the story along but help explain Ireland, not in in-your-face ways but through storytelling and life tellings.
I recommend this book to lovers of Ireland and reality love with a touch of what might be, and what could be yet to come.
I received a copy of the book for an honest review. The only thing that even remotely was a thorn to me was how Liam acts at times, but then again he's Irish and I'm not, well wasn't born there. Fullerton keeps the characters real, she stays true to them. I respect that.
This book was intriguing. It is not the typical love story but goes far deeper, into the lessons we all learn upon this pathway in Life. I found myself reading passages multiple times for their wisdom and candor about relationships - not only of love but of work relationships as well. It reminds me of a time when I was young; no one had given me the answers and I had to find out on my own, through trial and error and plenty of heartbreak. I recommend this book highly. The author spent time living in Ireland and it shows in all the nuances of their language and customs. I'm eagerly awaiting her next book.
Claire's thoughtful and gentle peek into the lives and surroundings of those in her her latest novel “Dancing to an Irish Reel” prompts the reader to think about reconsidering his/her expectations of how interactions between two people might play out and the end result. The development of the story carries the reader along at a smooth and easy pace, which is reminiscent of the Irish and life in Ireland. One has only to close his/her eyes and be transported to the west of Ireland while reading the the lush descriptions of nature and how it influence the lives of the Irish. These passages were gifts to the senses. Whether you have “some Irish” in you, and regardless of where you live, there will be many moments in Hailey’s journey where you will recognize a universal theme in the delicate web of human interaction. As “me” grandfather would say: “Ah, such a lovely read and so much wisdom for one so young!"
we're treated to the very best of the genre
ByJMLon June 22, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
In Claire Fullerton's latest, "Dancing to an Irish Reel," we're treated to the very best of the genre. Ireland's land, people, music and weather are revealed through the observant eyes of Hailey, the traveller who has dared to plant tenative roots. Music is Hailey's lifeblood, and she serves it however it comes to her. When it appears in the form of the musician Liam, we're treated to the 'dance' that ensues when two artistic souls edge toward and away from each other. But Ms. Fullerton doesn't fall back on a formulaic ending in which every ribbon is tied in a prefect bow before she leaves us. Instead, she lets the dance between Hailey and Liam play itself out like it does in life: with stops and starts; with complications; and with people who find a way to tell each other the truth. Don't deny yourself this pleasure.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Charming and wise
ByJudith Ingramon May 7, 2015
What drew me into Claire Fullerton’s book was the fresh and reflective narrative sung to us by her protagonist, Hailey, an American young woman quite suddenly immersed in an Irish culture so rich in rural tradition and language nuance that it almost seems as if she has been dropped into a previous century. Her love interest with the beautiful but conflicted Irish musician Liam seems but a subplot to the deeper story of Hailey’s budding romance with the Irish people, culture, and countryside. My favorite character was Mick, a melancholy young man who soars above the story, reentering now and then to tease us with his mystical Irish beliefs and lead Hailey deeper into her own Celtic roots. I recommend the book to readers who want a taste of the Irish wrapped in prose so exquisitely fashioned that it is pure pleasure to read.
Format: Kindle Edition
The first impression I received as I eagerly delved into this book is Claire Fullerton has the heart of a poet. Her prose flowed so sweetly and succinctly that I was never once thrown out of the beautiful narrative which slowly unfolded. She has this innate ability to broach a subject in a way that is truly original in nature.
For example, the main character, Hailey, is wondering about her chance encounter with Liam Hennesey and instead of simply saying, "Hey, must have been fate, dontcha know." She puts it this way.
"I found it interesting that fate had provided the chance encounter. It seemed to me that if we, in our human frailty, didn't have the courage to take care of business, then the powers that be intervened seemingly by chance."
Or this beautiful piece describing musicians.
"There is a secret language musicians speak that does away with the need for articulation because it is intuitive and telepathic at its core...I felt as if I were in an insular bubble, privy to the secret internal mechanisms of a musician's rarified gift..."
As a musician it was interesting to see the perspective of a nonmusician, and to realize that she had hit the nail on the head. There are certain ways I associate, relate, and converse with people who understand music the way I do and who are as enthusiastic about the process as I am. This story touched my heart in a way that no other story has in a very long time.
I felt an added investment in the book due to my Irish ancestry and my total lack of knowledge on the subject. The idiosyncrasies of rural Ireland's culture was something I found fascinating, and how Hailey navigated that as an American was a journey I enjoyed taking. I learned just as much about myself in relation to Ireland as she did. A journey of discovery, really, and I couldn't be happier to have been a part of it.
The dynamics between Liam and Hailey were both exhilarating and frustrating simply because it was obvious he loved her, but he was woefully incapable of letting Hailey see it. I felt just as exasperated with him as she did, but it moved the story forward and added to that element of self-discovery that I felt so drawn towards. I'm not a fan of how it ended, though it couldn't have possibly ended any other way. I am all about closure, and this left so many questions unanswered, but I sincerely hope that means there will be more for Liam and Hailey in the future because I would dive into that story too.
We are gifted with a beautiful piece of poetry at the end that left me feeling a bit choked up. Bad timing for me, considering I had to go pick up my kids from school and transition myself from moved-and-inspired-by-poetry to crazed-mommy-the-cheauffer.
Claire Fullerton wrote a beautiful piece that will pique the interest of anyone fond of Irish history, romance and the intricacies of human relationships.
My favorite kind of book is one where I feel like the narrator is speaking only to me, and “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is just that! Reading this book had me feeling like I was sitting talking to a friend; its tone is so immediately intimate as the narrator, Hailey Crossan, tells her story that I didn’t feel the need to interrupt by asking questions about this American’s spell binding experience in rural Ireland!
A short, crisp prologue tells us with plausibility how the narrator came to leave Los Angeles and make her home on Ireland’s west coast. From the first engaging chapter, we are given a vivid sense of place as we are introduced to both Galway City, where Hailey works at the Galway Music Center, and the countryside of Connemara, where she makes her home. Both settings are painted cleverly in a manner that “shows” and never “tells” because the book takes off with action!
Twenty five year old Hailey Crossan is a savvy, insightful, fish out of water who has the kind of self-confidence to move to a new country without knowing a soul. She quickly surrounds herself with a group of Irish friends who are instrumental to the building story, for when she meets an intriguing musician named Liam Hennessey, who is clearly interested in her but has a funny way of showing it, they are by her side with their running commentary, which is often times funny and always revealing of how the Irish conduct themselves in a nuanced culture that Hailey is trying to understand.
At the heart of “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is the potential for new love, and the reader is lured along its uncertain development by being privy to exactly what Hailey is thinking as Liam Hennessey sends out mixed signals in his awkward courtship. I found myself laughing out loud at the dynamic’s accuracy in this realistic portrayal of an attraction that keeps the narrator guessing and has no guarantee.
But “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is also a lyrically written story. Its language is fluid and beautifully descriptive with laser sharp intelligence and pacing without any gaps. It reads like a celebration of hope, youth, friendship, and discovery as the narrator confidentially shares her longing to connect and her awestruck appreciation for all that is Irish. From the portrayal of the landscape to the character of Ireland's people, it is an outsider’s travelogue experienced through the heart and a rollicking good time all at once!
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lyrical and lovely!
ByAlison Hendersonon March 7, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This delightful novel reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction. In truth, it is a love song to the landscape, people, culture, and language of western Ireland. The author has perfectly captured the complex, and sometimes confusing, subtlety of the Irish people in the cadences and patterns of their language.
The characters are well-drawn, quirky, and unique. The story follows Hailey, a young American, as she navigates a maybe on/maybe off relationship with an Irish musician who struggles with the meaning and implication of falling in love. The author depicts the uncertainties and push/pull of their budding attraction with wisdom and sensitivity.
The carefully crafted descriptions of the settings, both natural and man-made, are so vivid you feel as if you’re sitting in the village pubs listening to traditional Irish music along with the characters. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, reading Dancing to an Irish Reel will take you back in a heartbeat; if you haven’t yet had that pleasure, this book serves as a tantalizing appetizer.
Format: Kindle Edition
Dancing to an Irish Reel is a lovely novel by Claire Fullerton. It’s set near Galway in Inverin, a small village inside the Gaeltacht (the area of Ireland when Irish is spoken exclusively.) Fullerton’s heroine, Hailey, has moved there to work in The Galway Music Centre for traditional music. This leads to her meeting Liam, a good-looking musician who is dedicated to his craft and afraid of love.
The title refers not only to traditional music but also to the dance Claire and Liam go through in their relationship. They are obviously attracted to each other, and Fullerton weaves their partnership nicely. I found I was fully invested in their shared evenings at the pub and nights at Hailey’s little rented house.
However, Dancing to an Irish Reel isn’t a romance novel but contemporary fiction. There’s a lot of friendship in the book, between Hailey and Shannon from the centre, as well as her neighbor Mick and his girlfriend. Fullerton brings the Galway area to life with gorgeous descriptions of long walks, including a sinister exploration into a graveyard at Mick’s behest, and old pubs where Irish music is performed.
The writing is clear and deceptively simple, as in this passage:
'The two sand-colored boulders at the tip of the ledge overlooking the sea gleamed spectrally in the moon’s misty reflection. The drop to the sand below was only about eight feet, and I stood at the edge, looking down at the otherworldly moss-covered rocks that made a promenade into the sea. Turning around, I looked at Liam, who leaned against a boulder, watching me.'
I also loved the way Fullerton evoked the friendly fun between Hailey and Shannon:
“Mrs. Donoghue, I’m Hailey, I’ve come to see Shannon,” I said.
“Shannon, is it?” she responded, not moving out of the doorway.
“Could you please tell her I’m here?”
“Does Shannon know you’re coming to see her?” she interrogated.
“She does. We have plans today.”
Mrs. Donoghue closed the door and left me standing on the sidewalk. I walked out to the street, looked up at Shannon’s bedroom window, put my index fingers together and whistled sharply. Shannon’s head appeared through her window’s lace curtains. “Will you call off the guard?” I called up.
“Just a minute.” Shannon disappeared, and a moment later, she opened the front door.
“What’s wrong with that woman?” I stepped inside. “Maybe you ought to give her your daily itinerary or something. What’s she think I’m going to do? You’d think there was a threat of kidnap.”
There were a few minor details that jarred me as I read. Some storylines seemed to fade away with no reason. I would have liked to see the graveyard walk explored to live up to its promise, since it’s mentioned in the first chapter. Also, the Centre itself ... (spoiler alert, highlight to read) dies a natural death. It would have been nice to discover what happened with the music and all the workers at the centre.
I always approach a book set in Ireland and written by an America author with caution – are there going to be loads of shamrocks and leprechauns? Will the characters say ‘Begorrah?’ (In a lifetime of visiting Ireland, I’ve never heard anyone use that word.)
In this case, there was no need for fear. Fullerton caught the flavor of Irish life perfectly, and her characters leap off the page with their speech. She has an excellent ear for language. My one caveat was the use of ‘yah’ – it appeared in Chapter 6 and showed up often enough to bug me. Writing colloquial speech is very tricky, and while Fullerton captured the essential Irish prose (cheeky and lyrical at the same time) the overuse of ‘yah’ dragged down her prose.
However, these minor points didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Dancing to an Irish Reel. The book is intelligent and entertaining, and I recommend it as an absorbing read. If you like character development and thoughtful romance in a musical setting, this novel is a great choice.
What a great read.
ByAmazon Customeron February 23, 2016
The story is authentic, but it's not your average love story. The setting and characters, in and around Galway's music scene, come alive on each page. I was thoroughly entertained & loved this writer's voice. I'm looking forward to her next book
Iconic Irish Journey
BySit 'n Stay Globalon February 21, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
This story was a joy to consume. Reading this was like having a good friend sit down by the fire and share a true glimpse of Ireland and her ways with you. Simply beautiful description and a good story weave together to transport to a lovely escape. Sit down with a good cup of tea and let the first line set the stage for you. "There's a road in Spiddal that leads down to the sea..."
5.0 out of 5 stars
Dancing to an Irish Reel is awesome!!!!!
ByAmazon Customeron February 5, 2016
Format: Audible Audio Edition
Dancing to an Irish Reel is awesome! It is a beautiful written story. I was born and reared in the Spiddal area and know every place Hailey and Liam visited. Thank you Claire Fullerton for a book that I truly enjoyed. I wholeheartedly recommend you read this book.
Yay for Claire!
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved this story. The beginning was slow for me but I was smart enough to stick with it and finished it in 3 days. You will too. The author explains in great detail the Irish landscape as well as the unpredictability and charming traits of some of the most eccentric Irish characters. I think it was important to write it this way and let the words flow. Her literary style makes the book that much more Irish and extremely authentic. I was pulled into the lives of the Irish characters and the 2 Americans who really keep things interesting, a sort of cat and mouse game at times. Its a very different kind of story and that is as it should be. If you've always wondered what Irish people are like, this is it in a nutshell. The author paints a splendid, canny and realistic picture of Irish people and their customs, idioms, language and social relationships. The story kept me turning pages and I just loved some of the characters. The book made me laugh as well. She does an awesome job at capturing the Irish spirit, which is not like any other people you will ever meet and I would read more of her work.
H. Schussman’s review of Dancing to an Irish Reel, by Claire Fullerton
ByHSchussmanon January 29, 2016
Readers Point of View
This book is truly literary fiction. Clair Fullerton artfully weaves a subtle romance with poetic nuance. For me, the appeal was the routine. Some people like whirlwind vacations, but I like to settle in and grow some roots. Dancing to an Irish Reel is about Hailey settling into a small community and getting a feel for the personality of the locals. She meets the dark mysterious Liam Hennessey and can’t shake the attraction. This tale does a wonderful job of illustrating the different ways we go about falling in love; men versus women, Irish versus Californian. Hailey is analytical, curious, and straightforward. Liam is a free spirit, confused, and never faces anything straight-on.
I imagine each reader will connect with different personalities in the story. I liked Adrian. He is one of those guys who enthusiastically helps in any way he can. Some people find him extremely annoying, Hailey thinks he’s adorable. I also loved her description of an elegantly dressed older gentleman named Seamus Kearney. I want to sit with him and have a cup of tea.
A special skill Fullerton has is to allow each personality to be uniquely different. Typically writers create dialogues with the same speaking style. She writes each person’s dialogue differently. “In Connemara, we like to stay connected, you know. No need to be parted by a little thing like death.” This was Liam’s comment regarding the local haunted cemetery. After a couple of pages you can almost hear the Irish brogue.
If a sentence stands out in literature, I know I’m on to something good. In Fullerton’s case, many such sentences occur. My favorite of the book describes a businessman Hailey must deal with… Her first impression; “He had glowing white hair that stuck out every which way, and untamed eyebrows to match. A course mustache swept hither and yon to either side of his mouth as if it were fighting gravity.” Lovely, sigh.
I also appreciated her ability to stay true to first person POV. As any writer knows this isn’t easy. The first person can’t know what is happening out of their presence. Claire Fullerton masterfully pulls it off. Well done!
This book was thoroughly enjoyable! The details were so real as if I was experiencing the story myself. I have never been to Ireland and now I can't wait until I can to enjoy my own adventure. Ms. Fullerton has such a beautiful way with words. She is a keen observer of place and people. I love the way she writes. She has a wonderful way of building the story, leaving you wanting to read chapter after chapter. I couldn't wait to find out what happens next!