Dubliners was completed in 1905, but a series of British and Irish publishers and printers found it offensive and immoral, and it was suppressed. The book finally came out in London in 1914, just as Joyceʼs Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man began to appear in the journal Egoist under the auspices of Ezra Pound. The first three stories in Dubliners might be incidents from a draft of Portrait of the Artist, and many of the characters who figure in Ulysses have their first appearance here, but this is not a book of interest only because of its relationship to Joyceʼs life and mature work. It is one of the greatest story collections in the English language—an unflinching, brilliant, often tragic portrait of early twentieth-century Dublin. The book, which begins and ends with a death, moves from “stories of my childhood” through tales of public life. Its larger purpose, Joyce said, was as a moral history of Ireland.
Frank and Malachy McCourt and 13 Irish actors bring Joyce's short stories to life in this well-produced audiobook. None of the readers employ a thick accent in the narrative portions, but for dialogue they let their imitative talents shine and their Irish lilts bloom. Brendan Coyle and Charles Keating, reading "A Little Cloud" and "Grace" respectively, give such wonderful expression to the idiosyncrasies of every individual voice that the listener is never confused even when numerous men are talking. Joyce wrote only sparingly in actual dialect, but most of the readers interpret his intentions freely and successfully. Fionnula Flanagan is perfect reading "A Mother," her voice shifting easily between prim and proper tones and fiery indignation punctuated with little sighs. It helps that Joyce's writing is so masterful that when Flanagan and the two other actresses read the three stories that revolve around women, their words sound utterly natural. Not all the performances are on the same level Stephen Rea's cold, somber voice is apt for the meditative beginning and ending sections of the collection's most famous story, "The Dead," but too flat for the central description of a lively party. This audiobook creates the atmosphere of a fireside storytelling session that will hold any listener in rapt attention.