This is a literature text for one of my Arts units, Irish Literature. For that reason, I haven’t actually read all of the short stories within the book. Frank O’Connor is only the editor, not writer of the short stories. There is a good range, particularly of women Irish writers.
The short stories are carefully crafted, and often filled with symbols and metaphors. They are a great expose on ‘Irish Life’. A bit of context regarding the famine, and world war II would be helpful, but not essential. You can still appreciate the stories as great Irish Literature.
While reading I wasn’t exactly concentrating on the joy of reading – these had an exam on them. I would love to go back at a later time when I’m not so stressed and reread more in the collection. If you didn’t like James Joyce, there is still a good chance you may like these, because there is simply so much variety in style.