Irish authors are making their presence felt! Following rapidly on the success of Eimear McBride in the Goldsmiths Award, Donal Ryan has now been nominated, as one of six authors, with The Spinning Heart in the Guardian 2013 First Book award. The winner will be announced at Tate Modern on 28 November.
Already a winner of Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2012 and long listed for the Man Booker Prize, Donal Ryan has written an intriguing and very original spin on the effects of the recession in Ireland. But it is also much more than just the effects of the recession. The book is set in a village in Ireland where a local developer, Pokey Burke, has crashed and disappeared leaving unpaid bills and wages, a situation devastating for the locals. But like any village, its not just all about work - there are local antagonisms, resentments, fears and, above all, tremendous stress in relationships leading eventually to both a murder and a kidnap. Ryan himself said that 'there's a marriage at the centre of The Spinning Heart, and a relationship between a father and son, and they're what I was most concerned with'. And that is the triumph of the book - we have lived and are living the recession, we've bought several of the t-shirts and might think we have read enough about it. But this is different. There are 21 characters involved and Ryan has given each one of them a chapter
and I have to say that the quickest you can read this book - its only
150 pages - the better as it makes more impact when one can remember
clearly the different sentiments expressed by each character. This format that Ryan has chosen gives a new insight into the lives and thoughts of a disparate group of villagers and their relationships with each other, their jealousies and desires. That between Bobby Mahon, one of the leading characters, and his father is told with huge skill and not a little surprise and will certainly give you pause for thought.
Ryan writes with a delicacy and perfection that is a pleasure to read. He captures a world reminiscent of McGahern though with none of that grim misery. As with many short novels, the language is spare and precise and yet he gives us a complex and involved narrative superior to many books twice its length. Definitely worth a read.
Published in paperback by Doubleday Ireland, £10.99