This collection of stories is set in Portobello, on the edge of Dublin city centre, just inside the canal. The stories reflect on characters on the edge of life, personalities that do not quite fit in: Michael, the country boy who drowns himself; Harry, the old Jewish dealer living alone; Liam, the crude but jovial emigrant returning to Ireland for a visit. Through the author's eyes, and through the eyes of his other characters, we follow his progress from the first story, 'Settling In', to the final one, 'Mr Pock'. Old friends are met, in loss or renewal, making or trying to make fresh starts, or looking back though the glass of time. Disappointment, happiness, uncertainty lead to the realization that this place has become - what the author had always thought was elsewhere - his home. Written over the past thirty years, these earnest and deeply human anecdotes form a greater story - of one man's life in one place.
This collection of a dozen stories written over a span of 30 years is very evocative of place, specifically Portobello, a suburb on the edge of Dublin, where the author lives, and short on incident; they read, unsurprisingly given the book's title, like sketches or portraits, the line between fiction and nonfiction further blurred by the frequent use of unnamed narrators and scratchboard illustrations by Charles Cullen sprinkled throughout. Kenny writes of the tradition of "Saturday evening Mass"; a chance encounter, in "Going Back," with a man he recognizes from 30 years ago who doesn't remember him; and a trip abroad cut short by homesickness ("In New York"). Not only are these pieces awash in nostalgia, they are essentially about nostalgia, the way that memories from the past become affectionately cosseted or gilded in their reimagining, such as in the final story, "Mister Pock," whose view out his window blurs, pleasantly: "After thirty years living in this street he sees it through the glass of time." In the middle of the book is the more traditional "The Cricket Match," a long story that follows several intertwined characters over a span of years that will whet the reader's appetite for the author's lengthier fiction.