In his introduction to this collection, Frank O'Connor, himself a distinguished short story writer, emphasizes the richness of the short story tradition in Ireland. The stories he has chosen, all written between the end of the last century and the 1950s, illustrate his meaning and demonstrate how the style and approach of these writers changed in response, not only to the demands of a developing aesthetic, but also to the social and political conditions of their day.
The volume represents the finest writers of their time with their best work, revealing the variety of styles and approaches within the genre, and ranging from the folk tale to the romance, and from the symbolic to the naturalistic. It contains selections by George Moore, Somerville and Ross, Daniel Corkery, James Joyce, James Stephens, Liam O'Flaherty, L.A.G. Strong, Sean O'Faolain, Frank O'Connor, Eric Cross, Michael McLaverty, Bryan MacMahon, Mary Lavin, James Plunkett, and Elizabeth Bowen.