by Sukey HowardMay, 2000
A new Irish voiceMinnie O'Brien, the Westmeath woman, wife, and mother around whom The Banyon Tree, a lyrical, debut novel, sweeps and swoops, is described at one point as making the extraordinary, ordinary. The author, Christopher Nolan, does the opposite; he makes the ordinary, extraordinary. In his hands, a simple tale of a countrywoman's steadfast strength becomes an elegiac, enthralling epic: funny, poignant, and as earthy as the Irish sod it's set on. And in his prose, with distant echoes of Joyce, Yeats, and Beckett, words take on new shadings and colors, denotations deviate, and connotations comfortably collide.
Nolan's accomplishment is quite amazing and made even more so because, due to an accident at birth, he's mute, palsied, and pecks out each character with what he calls his unicorn horn attached to his forehead. Fiona Shaw's brilliant reading makes this an extraordinary audio treasure.