Irish Literature

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Talking About The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne with Chrissi Reads

Published March 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been very hyped by others in the blogosphere. Did the hype worry you? We all know about that dreaded hype monster…

BETH: I think we all worry about that horrible hype monster. There’s been so often where I’ve heard nothing but good things about a book and for some reason, I just haven’t connected with it as much as other readers. But for some strange reason, I didn’t have that worry with this book. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read a few of John Boyne’s books now so I’m already familiar with his style of writing (and I was pretty certain I was going to love it!) or if I’ve read enough reviews of it now that I knew I’d be into it purely on the plot alone. This was definitely the case with me, I knew I was going to love it, what WAS unexpected was just how much I would adore it.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Cyril and his adoptive parents, Charles and Maude?

CHRISSI: SO VERY STRANGE. I really felt for Cyril. I felt like Cyril’s adoptive parents merely adopted him just because it was ‘right’ thing to do, to have a child. I don’t feel like there was much love there which was a great shame. Charles and his constant need to remind Cyril that he wasn’t a real Avery. Ooh his Dad really made me cross. Ha! I find it funny that I’m still so annoyed about Cyril’s parents!

CHRISSI: Following Cyril through the course of his life takes us through much of the twentieth century. How was each decade most vividly brought to life for you?

BETH: Great question. We see Cyril from a very young boy, right through school and teenage years to a young adult, middle aged man and then an old man. Different things happen to him in each decade that affect his life irrevocably and it seems each decade also comes with a different challenge for poor Cyril. I think his life was brought into vivid detail by these experiences that he goes through and also the host of colourful characters that he meets along the way that all touch his life in some way, either for better or for worst.

BETH: How well do you think this novel explored what it’s like to be gay in Ireland from the fifties onwards?

CHRISSI: I found this novel to be incredibly intriguing as to what it was like to be gay in Ireland from the 50s. I guess I always knew in the back of my mind about what Ireland experienced, but I don’t think I’ve ever read something so memorable about Ireland’s history with homosexuality. I think the novel explored it well and in a way that was heart-breaking but incredibly memorable at the same time.

CHRISSI: Discuss the ending, how else might you have concluded Cyril’s story?

BETH: The ending was quite bitter-sweet for me but I’ll try not to give away any spoilers. I’m really happy we got to see Cyril as a seventy year old man coming near the end of his life. However, this was also really sad (and sounds a bit silly) but even though I’m aware he’s fictional, I just wish he hadn’t aged so quickly! By the end of the novel, he seems to have achieved some sort of closure about the events that have happened to him over the years and has made peace with those he needed to which was lovely to read. Some of the parts really broke my heart though, especially when you find out his future and when he’s talking to his nearest and dearest that he hasn’t seen for years.

BETH: There is a large cast of very different characters in this novel. Which character did you most warm to and why?

CHRISSI: There really is a large cast of characters. However, only one stole my heart and that was Cyril. I absolutely loved following his story across his life. I loved seeing him grow over time from teen, to young adult, adult to the elderly Cyril. I loved being along for the ride. I grew so close to Cyril and was desperate for everything to turn out right for him.

CHRISSI: How do you think this book compares to John Boyne’s other books that you’ve read?

BETH: I’ve read probably his most famous – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Mutiny On The Bounty and Stay Where You Are And Then Leave. Although I rated the latter of these five stars on Goodreads, I would have to say without a doubt, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is my favourite book by John Boyne so far. It has the most beautiful writing, the most fantastic characters and was a novel that had me laughing and crying in equal measure. It’s easily made it’s way to my favourites shelf and is probably one of my all-time favourite books that I’ll be talking about and pushing into other people’s hands for a long time yet.

BETH: The Heart’s Invisible Furies is both funny and sad. Why do you think the author chose to use humour in the telling of this story?

CHRISSI: I think it’s really important that stories have a balance of funny and sad. Despite bad things happening, life does have its funny moments. I think if stories always dwell on the sad then it can be very tough to read. I like it when there are lighter moments in this story. I think the author included some lighter moments because some particular moments were difficult to read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the nineteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018

Published February 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post on my blog. I’ve already made some Bookish Goals/Resolutions for the year but I also made a little promise to myself that I would do a random post every month that I have been inspired to participate in from seeing it either on booktube or from a fellow blogger. A lot of the booktubers that I follow have been posting videos about 18 books they would like to read in 2018 and I thought I’d join in with the fun. So, without any further ado, here are the 18 books I’d like to get to this year!

1.) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Jane Eyre is tied for one of my all time favourite classics (with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). My mum got me a beautiful clothbound classic for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’m definitely due a re-read so I’m excited to read it in this beautiful edition.

2.) The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I’ve read a few John Boyne books now and loved every one of them. I’m really trying hard not to buy hardbacks at the moment but when I read Renee’s @ It’s Book Talk review of it HERE, I bought it immediately. I’m actually reading this very soon as it’s part of the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club 2018 and I’m beyond excited.

3.) The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – Kevin Dutton

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction book that I think does pretty much what it says on the tin. The reason I want to read it this year is that it’s been on my “to read soon,” shelf for too blinking long now. This needs to happen.

4.) Stasi Wolf – David Young

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I went to see David Young talk about this first novel in this series, Stasi Child at Guildford Library last year and was determined to read the second book in the series. Of course, life and other books got in the way but I’m going to make it one of my priorities this year.

5.) Midwinter – Fiona Melrose

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Midwinter was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction last year and I always love to read some of the nominees for this fantastic prize, I find such interesting books are picked. This book got a lot higher on my list after I watched a video from one of my favourite book tubers Simon from Savidge Reads who loved this book and sold it to me incredibly well!

6.) The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors and I am shamefully behind with his books. That’s a good enough reason for me! I hope to get to his most recent book, Release as well but we’ll see how I get on.

7.) Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another one of those books that I heard rave reviews about last year and just didn’t get round to reading. I will this year!

8.) End Of Watch – Stephen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a no brainer for regular visitors to my blog. End Of Watch is the third novel in the Bill Hodges/Mr Mercedes trilogy and I’m really excited to see how the story ends. It left on quite the cliffhanger in the second book, Finders Keepers.

9.) Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Oh look another Stephen King book! This is Stephen King’s latest release that he wrote with his son, Owen and this cover does not do justice to how beautiful the book is in real life. My boyfriend bought me a copy to cheer me up after a rough year as I was trying to wait for it to come out in paperback. It’s a chunky beast but I’m so glad and grateful he got it for me, now I can read it even sooner!

10.) Charlotte Bronte – Claire Harman

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction account of the life of Charlotte Bronte (as I mentioned before, Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite classics/books). I have been neglecting my non fiction recently and this is another present from my wonderful boyfriend albeit a couple of years ago – oops. This is why I need to get to it this year!

11.) English Animals – Laura Kaye

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I had been aware of English Animals last year and the cover is obviously stunning but it was only after watching book tubers Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings and Lauren from Lauren And The Books give glowing reviews for this novel that I knew I had to make time for it this year.

12.) Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I met Julia Crouch at a bookish event a little while ago and she kindly signed my copy of this book and was lovely to talk to. I gave this book originally to my sister to read as she’s a big Julia Crouch fan but now I’m determined to read it for myself, especially after seeing Chrissi’s wonderful review.

13.) The House In Smyrna – Tatiana Salem Levy

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Confession time. This is a review copy that the lovely people at Scribe were kind enough to send me that I thought I had lost and have found recently. I remember why I was so excited to read it when it arrived and I’m definitely going to be checking it out soon.

14.) Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another non-fiction book that I’ve had on my shelf for a long, long time and I keep meaning to read it but keep getting distracted by other books. It promises to change the way you look at eating meat so I’m intrigued. My boyfriend and sister are vegetarians but I still love the taste of meat…even if I feel very guilty about doing so!

15.) The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

Why do I want to read it this year?:

My lovely blogger friend Stuart from Always Trust In Books sent me some wonderful books and I loved the sound of all of them but I’m especially intrigued by this one, just read his review to see why.

16.) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Yes, it’s been on my shelves for ages. Sigh! It won a host of awards and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. Plus, I think my sister is quite keen to read it so I need to get started so I can pass it on to her!

17.) The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I can’t even remember buying this book (hangs head in shame) but re-reading the synopsis right now and hearing great things about this author from other bloggers I know that I need to start reading some Sarah Pinborough. As I already have this book this seems the perfect place to start.

18.) Miss Jane – Brad Watson

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I bought this book on the London Bookshop Crawl in Oxford last year which I went to with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Of course I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover so it was that I have to admit that initially attracted me. However, the synopsis cemented the deal and I couldn’t resist buying it.

So that’s the 18 books I’d like to read in 2018! I’d love to hear from you guys, have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think? What books would you recommend I get to sooner rather than later this year? If any other bloggers fancy doing (or have done) their 18 books to read in 2018 please leave your link down below, I’d love to check out what you really want to read this year.

The Green Road – Anne Enright

Published January 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From internationally acclaimed author Anne Enright comes a shattering novel set in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. The Green Road is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness—a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.

Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.

A profoundly moving work about a family’s desperate attempt to recover the relationships they’ve lost and forge the ones they never had, The Green Road is Enright’s most mature, accomplished, and unforgettable novel to date.

What did I think?:

The Green Road is (I think) my first novel by Anne Enright although I’ve heard a lot of great things about her other novels, especially The Gathering which won the Man Booker Prize back in 2007 and is on my radar to read. The Green Road came to my attention when I attended the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction 2016 shortlist readings as it was one of the short-listed books. After a reading from the novel, I was determined to check it out as the passage read was absolutely hilarious and made the audience howl. I’m eventually getting round to reading it (in early 2018 – shame on me!) and generally, I really enjoyed it but not quite as much as I was expecting to. This is a categorically Irish story about members of a typical Irish family and how the mother of this family copes when all her chicks fly the nest. It was gorgeously written and parts of it still play on my mind long after finishing, as do many of the characters.

Our story begins in 1980 and we follow the youngest daughter of this family, Hanna as a young girl. Furthermore, the following chapters follow a single character of the family in a different city at a particular struggle of their life. For example, the chapter immediately following Hanna is one of the sons, Dan in 1991, New York as he battles with the American way of life, finding a job and most importantly, his sexuality. Then we see the oldest daughter, Constance in 1997 as she is attending a very crucial hospital appointment, desperately worrying that she might have breast cancer. The penultimate chapter in the first half of the novel is the other son, Emmet in 2002 as helps the sick and injured in Mali, Africa and experiences difficulties in his relationship with a young woman. Finally we see the mother, Rosaleen in 2005 as she writes Christmas cards to her children, desperately hoping they will all come home for Christmas and worries that the relationships she has with them are all disintegrating. In the second half of the narrative, we see all the children back home with their mother for Christmas but realise how fractured their relationships and indeed their lives actually are.

Essentially, this is a quintessential family saga with all the major and minor dramas that large personalities in a family can bring. It’s written at points almost like a stream of consciousness, particularly when characters are speaking to each other with classic Irish phrasing and slang. I loved this latter part, it was so visceral I could almost imagine myself in Ireland, listening to people speaking but unfortunately the stream of consciousness part didn’t work so well for me, it was sometimes a bit difficult to follow and it made me want to skip entire parts of the narrative. However, I was surprised at the range of emotions this novel elicited from me. I felt such sadness for Constance when she was in the hospital and for Hanna as she struggled with alcohol, her relationship with her husband and being a mother of a young baby (potentially post-natal depression?).

I was also touched by Dan’s story as he was so horribly determined not to be homosexual in the beginning but ended up finding happiness, and of course Emmet and the good he did in Africa whilst never really managing to love anyone. As I’m writing this, I’m remembering how wonderful parts of this novel really were but unfortunately there were other parts that I didn’t love so much and just didn’t flow for me the way I wanted. Perhaps from the reading I mentioned early at the Baileys short-list event I was expecting this novel to be a lot funnier that it actually was and wasn’t anticipating the seriousness I discovered so was slightly taken aback. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this novel, I did very much but I think expectations are strange things and I am a bit of a slave to them, once I’ve made up my mind how I might feel about a novel prior to reading it. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the slow pace and the intricate character studies which I always appreciate in a good literary fiction.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

The Green Road by Anne Enright is the seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) – Tana French

Published August 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A new novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

What did I think?:

I didn’t start off reading Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, of which there are now six books but I read the fifth book, The Secret Place quite recently and enjoyed it so when Richard and Judy picked the sixth book, The Trespasser for their Summer Book Club here in the UK I was pleased to carry on where I had left off. I am now planning to re-visit the series from the beginning at some point when that pesky TBR pile is under better control! The Trespasser is Irish crime fiction at its absolute finest and I really enjoy the rather different writing that characterises this authors style. I have to say, I don’t think some people will get on with it, it’s quite a slow burner of a narrative, like The Secret Place but I think if you can push past the slower parts of the narrative you might be pleasantly surprised.

Our protagonist and returning Detective Antoinette Conway is in her dream job, the Murder Squad with partner in crime, Detective Stephen Moran who assisted Antoinette and helped her crack a tricky case in the previous novel, The Secret Place. They make an excellent team but are faced with further intrigue and puzzlement when the latest case lands on their desks. At first, it looks like a standard domestic violence/possible manslaughter incident however things aren’t quite adding up for Antoinette and Stephen. It seems all a bit too easy to blame Aislinn Murray’s lover, Rory for her untimely demise but there are many things going on behind the scenes that make the detectives questions whether there isn’t something a lot deeper and darker going on. Antoinette is already on shaky ground with the majority of officers in the Murder Squad but the question is, can she risk everything she has worked for in pursuit of justice?

As I mentioned before, unlike a lot of crime fiction you see nowadays, I found The Trespasser rather different in that the plot wasn’t necessarily action-packed. It seemed to have a much deeper and intricate focus on the characters, their back stories, their lives and aspirations and the darker, more gritty side of the police force. I wouldn’t call it a page turner to be perfectly honest, in the normal sense of the word but it did keep me turning the pages for different reasons. I became more invested in the characters and what they had done, felt, were going to do in the future and, as a result I felt better connected with the story as a whole. I really love reading about Antoinette as a character, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks,  is independent, takes no nonsense and in The Trespasser we get to see a potentially much softer, troubled and more vulnerable side of her character which only made me more intrigued to carry on with the series if she appears in the next novel from Tana French. So to sum up, if you’re in the mood for a slower, more considered crime fiction style, this definitely gets my seal of approval!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Mini Pin It Reviews #9 – Four Books From Book Bridgr/other publishers

Published May 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Book Bridgr for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1 – Glow by Ned Beauman

What’s it all about?:

With GLOW, Ned Beauman has reinvented the international conspiracy thriller for a new generation.

A hostage exchange outside a police station in Pakistan.
A botched defection in an airport hotel in New Jersey.
A test of loyalty at an abandoned resort in the Burmese jungle.
A boy and a girl locking eyes at a rave in a South London laundrette . . .

For the first time, Britain’s most exciting young novelist turns his attention to the present day, as a conspiracy with global repercussions converges on one small flat above a dentist’s office in Camberwell.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Ladies Of The House by Molly McGrann

What’s it all about?:

On a sweltering July day, three people are found dead in a dilapidated house in London’s elegant Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakeable feeling that she is somehow to blame.

How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, in the double life of Marie’s father Arthur, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house . . .

Stylish, enchanting and deliciously atmospheric, this is a tragicomic novel about hidden love, second chances and unlikely companionships, told with wit, verve and lingering power.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

What’s it all about?:

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Secret Place by Tana French

What’s it all about?:

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Thriller Novels.

The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan

Published October 22, 2013 by bibliobeth

The Spinning Heart

What’s it all about?:

In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

What did I think?:

This book first came to my attention when it was chosen to be part of the Waterstones Eleven 2013, eleven debut authors who Waterstones predict big things for, please see my previous post HERE. Since then it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year (unfortunately, it did not make the shortlist), and has won other literary awards including The Sunday Independent Newcomer of The Year in 2012. The story is told in 21 short chapters, each chapter being told by a different voice in a small Irish community, each voice is only heard once but they are all individually unique in their personalities – a tough asking but one I think the author pulls off beautifully. Our story revolves around a man called Bobby Mahon, who is foreman at a building firm managed by Pokey Burke. The recession hits Ireland with a bang, and Pokey disappears into thin air after his firm goes bust, without having paid any of his workers National Insurance stamps or pensions. Understandably, there are a lot of angry people around, and after we hear Bobby’s story in the first chapter, we learn that every character is involved with him in some manner, and that they have been wounded or affected by the recession. The spinning heart of the novel is a physical object which hangs from Bobby’s fathers garden gate, and I think is also a metaphor for Bobby himself, as the moral centre of the story from which everything revolves.

The author’s use of different voices is both beautiful and poignant as we hear from a variety of individuals, from Lily (the “village bike”), to a young child, a single mother, and men who have worked for Pokey Burke and are desperately unhappy with the lot that they have been left i.e. nothing. Ryan writes the novel in the Irish voice, using the regional slang, which only adds to the authenticity of the novel in my opinion. This story is not just about the economic crash however, love, violence, a kidnapping and murder is also present which brings a sense of surprise and intrigue into what the reader is going to learn next. The dark humour connected with the Irish is also present, much to my delight, and I loved how the gossipmongers of the village are referred to as the “Teapot Taliban.” Favourite parts? Too many to discuss! Bobby’s strained relationship with his father is insightful and destructive, and he often mentions wishing for his death – this is important later on in the novel for a gripping twist that leaves the reader unable to put the book down, desperate to know how it is going to turn out. The following quote is a particular favourite of mine that completely spoke to me on a personal level:

“I’ll never forgive him for the sulking, though, and the killing sting of his tongue. He ruined every day of our lives with it… Sober, he was a watcher, a horror of a man who missed nothing and commented on everything. Nothing was ever done right or cooked right or said right or bought right or handed to him properly…. We couldn’t breathe right in a room with him. We couldn’t talk freely or easily.”

By the end of the novel, the characters and setting feel so familiar, it is almost like you are reading about people you know, and it is a certainty that we have all come across the colourful and more eccentric characters in our own lives. The only one problem I have with this book is that we only hear the voices once – and interestingly we never hear from Pokey Burke, who seems to have vanished into thin air. I would have loved to hear more about the characters, especially Bobby, who I think would have benefited from a short excerpt at the end, so the reader could analyse his thoughts and feelings after certain events in the story have played out. However, this is a fantastic debut novel, a worthy Booker long-lister, and I can’t wait to see what the author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0