Sam Hanna Bell in 1989, with Brenda Bruce and members of the cast on the Strangford Lough set of the film December Bride (Dermott Dunbar)

Sam Hanna Bell

"Lying awake," he remembered, "we listened to the bumbling drone of voices from the kitchen, the muted explosions of laughter, the chink of tea-cups. The talk would fall away into silence until someone would take up the story again, someone else would answer, and we would fall asleep to the antiphon of neighbours' voices round the hearth." He himself would take up the story again, most notably in December Bride (1951). In its closing lines, as throughout the story, we hear his mature reflection upon these early memories:

"Then he got up and turned out the lamp and ran it up to the roof. A nimbus of flame danced for a moment in the globe, flickered and vanished, and from all the corners of the kitchen, ancient shadows crept out, silent-footed, to sit by the dying fire."

It was of December Bride that Carmen Callil and Colm Toibin wrote: "This a book which everyone interested in modern fiction should read: It shows what can still be done." The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950. Carmen Callil and Colm Toibin, Picador, London, 1999