Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

A mesmerizing young Irish seanchaí (storyteller) on a red 1950 Vincent Comet motorcycle pulls into town and into the lives of young school teacher, Fiona Walsh, her twin sisters, Aiofe and Róisín, and Aunt Moira.  With riveting tales of long ago kingdoms, mighty battles, princes, princesses and wolves, Jim charms and seduces his listeners.  But let the games begin when a jealousy-driven Fiona follows Jim and discovers a very dark secret.

From the Publisher

Fiona Walsh thought her family’s secrets would follow her to her grave, but when her diary is found by a young postman, Niall, the truth about her untimely demise—and that of her sister and aunt—begins to see the light of day. It’s the most tragic love story he’s ever heard.

Niall soon becomes enveloped by the mystery surrounding Jim—an itinerant storyteller who traveled through Ireland enrapturing audiences and wooing women with his macabre mythic sagas—though a trail of murder followed him wherever he went. The Walsh sisters, fiercely loyal to each other, were not immune to “darling” Jim’s powers of seduction, but found themselves in harm’s way when they began to uncover his treacherous past. Niall must now continue his dangerous hunt for the truth—and for the vanished third sister—while there’s still time.

And in the woods, the wolves from Jim’s stories begin to gather.


Book Club Ideas

Decorations

Wolves must be included in this book club party theme.  I placed some of my Irish books between wolf bookends and included a  howling wolf , a red “Comet” motorcycle, and the diaries of sisters Fiona, Aiofe, and Róisín.

Menacing magnetic wolf bookmarks (such as the one below) are great book club party favors for your guests.

Niall attempted to sketch a wolf when he first found Fiona’s diary, but it turned out “pathetic and undangerous”, but later, when the image came to him strong and clear, he was able to capture the wolf perfectly.  A pencil drawing titled Silent Stalker by Gil Menzies is exactly as I imaged Niall’s final drawing.

Silent Stalker by Gil Menzies

Music

I found the best music for the Darling Jim book club party:  A Moment of Madness by artists Brendan Begley & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh.  I just love the album name which describes perfectly that fateful moment Fiona Walsh decides to follow Jim.  The traditional Celtic music sets just the right tone for this party!


Book Club Menu

“He’s such an easy guest to have,” tittered our star-struck aunt.  She smiled at me between forkfuls of Jim’s chicken cordon bleu and gave his forearm a possessive squeeze.  He didn’t seem to mind, but entrapped her in that snakelike gaze that already made women from Mizen Head to Kenmare forget what their husbands’ faces looked like.”

Chicken Cordon Bleu is made with two meats and cheese, then is breaded and fried, so I would try to keep the appetizers and side dishes on the simple side.

Start your guests off with a relish tray of assorted olives, pickles, baby corn, cherry tomatoes and assorted vegetables, with your favorite creamy ceasar or ranch dressing.

A light spring salad to serve before the Chicken Cordon Bleu.

And, roasted asparagus to accompany the Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Aoife loved to steal dark chocolate from Fiona’s refrigerator, so my dessert search was for something dark, rich, and dangerously decadent (kind of sounds like Jim).   Your guests will groan with delight when they indulge in this pepper-spiced molten lava cake .

I chose sauvignon blanc for what Róisín requested and chablis for what Jim brought to their picnic tryst on the beach down by Eyeries.

Murphy’s Irish Stout, brewed in Cork County, is what the Walsh sisters enjoyed at McSorley’s where Jonno manned the bar.  I included the very dark Murphy’s, plus a variety of other Irish brews.


Book Club Resources

I adore this novel.  Darling Jim is poignantly funny, enchanting and horrific.  Intrigued?  I hope so!
You’ll be rooting for the Walsh sisters and their knight in shining armor, Niall.

Reviews

Discussion

  1. Niall was a comic book artist moonlighting as a postal clerk.  He was completely drawn in by Fiona’s diary.  Do you think Niall’s comic book background influenced his involvement with The Walsh sisters?
  2. Did your sympathies concerning the Walsh sisters shift during the novel as more was revealed about their background?
  3. Why do you think Aunt Moira was so captivated by Jim?  Did you find Jim captivating?
  4. What did you think about Jim’s stories?  What did they reveal about Jim?  What about the Walsh sisters’ stories and their revelations?

The Author and Awards

Danish Author Christian Moerk

Christian Moerk left his native Denmark for Vermont at age 21 where he attended Marlboro College, graduating in 1991. He attained his master’s degree in 1992 from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.