A Close Shave with the Devil

Stories of Dublin

By: Ena May

Publication Date: November 1988

(1 customer review)


A Close Shave with the Devil: Stories of Dublin by Ena May

‘The devil was going around again and everyone knew because it was in the papers. An usherette in the Metropole saw him at An Apartment for Peggie, eating oranges in a brown trilby; two women in Clery’s Bargain Basement came upon him fingering cups in a highly suspicious manner; and The Evening Mail said pretty draper’s assistant, Lily Shine, nineteen, from Cabra West, was dancing with a fellow in a brown suit when she felt something funny, looked down, and fainted.’

In these unsettling tales of late 1940s Dublin, young Eily Doolin encounters the gentle foot-fetishist next door, the ‘Argentinian tango-dancer’ from Ballybough, the Jewish couple who introduce her to the delights of carrot cake and Chopin, the ‘simple’ boy who carries a secret hatred, and, in the climactic closing story, the devil himself. Along the way there are two murders, a suicide, and more illicit sex than Eily can comprehend.

Ena May’s post-Emergency Dublin is at once recognizable and utterly unlike all previous literary versions of the city. Her gimlet-eyed narrator inhabits secret childhood places as well as the grown-up kitchens and parlours of ‘Blarney Park’, twitching the veil between public and private, street and home. Ena May has created a remarkable narrative voice, perfectly pitched between the knowing and the naïve, the compassionate and the sarcastic, the intrepid and the bewildered. A Close Shave with the Devil, fables of adults at play in a child’s world, is a tour de force of storytelling, and a remarkable début collection.

‘Magical fiction – these times past move at a racy pace and scrutinise an all-but-departed Dublin.’ – Jim Clarke, Sunday Independent

‘Very refreshing and thoroughly hilarious – Her stories wonderfully evoke the atmosphere of postwar Dublin.’ Basil Miller, The Sunday Business Post

‘A wonderfully written book, full of rich subplots – exquisite, entertaining and engrossing.’ The Event Guide

‘Funny, dark, poignant.’ Customer review


ENA MAY is a Dublin actress, playwright and director. Her one-act ‘Out of the Beehive’was appraised by Fintan O’Toole as ‘flawless’ with ‘a wicked sense of humour and wonderful sense of absurdity which mark an individual voice’. Her other theatrical works include ‘She’s your Mother Too, You Know!’, which played successfully at the 1986 Dublin Theatre Festival, and ‘Love Lust and the Lack of It’, an adaptation of Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’.


1 review for A Close Shave with the Devil

  1. Lilliput Press

    As a Dubliner, I can attest that Ena May writes about a city that even James Joyce could not access, a city with a range of personalities made of the kind of flesh and blood understood by ordinary mortals and not just a band of Jesuits that seem to have comtaminated the mind of the great one. When viewed from a wider perspective, this book is not just a close-up of ordinary Dubliners doing ordinary things (like cross-dressing, child-abuse, lesbianism, and, even murder), like all good literature it is appropriate to any city anywhere. And the nice thing, it is well written! (And mark this, JJ, all the puntuations are in the right place!). TOBY INCHER 19th December 1999

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Weight 0.25 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

November 1988


Paperback, 159pp