Having personally raved about "The Spinning Heart" by Donal Ryan to the point where the publisher gave in and let us both interview him and feature his book, I was delighted to receive the following review:
The past in Ireland remains a misty mire of religion, death, drink and violent love. Discuss.
Well contemporary Ireland in the new novel by [up-and-coming] author Donal Ryan could be forgiven for once again retracing those themes.
However, just as James Joyce raised the lives of his 'Dubliner' characters a century ago through their individual stories, so Ryan picks out the physical and emotional fallout of the recent Celtic Tiger economic depression through his tales.
Bobby Mahon wishes his father dead he tells us. Soon enough Frank his father, is dead. But this is not the central theme of the novel, although even Frank's floating ghost returns later to speak to us and tell his version of fatherhood. Because Bobby, his friends and workmates have bigger demons to survive as the disasters of a dodgy local builder Pokey Burke, who has built a new housing estate on unsound foundations and unsound finance which comes tumbling down around them all.
Ryan crosses the generations with boys who love their 'wan' (girl) and worn out mothers who are tormented by drunken husbands. But the women have strength and purpose too, particularly Triona who stands by Bobby despite the wonderfully described 'Teapot Taliban' local gossips who stir up lies about the man she loves.
Having seen for myself the tragic wastelands of empty housing estates and lives of monetary despair in Ireland, I was glad this new novel not only brought us up to date on the ravages of the country but also the eternal hope of humankind its land also inspires.
The style of this book may not to be every book clubs' taste, but it will evoke much discussion and make readers want to explore how close every person can be to the brink of disaster yet somehow pull through.
Philipa Coughlan, Bexhill
I think I'd call that a 5 star/5 star review, wouldn't you?