I really enjoyed reading John Boyne’s two most recent novels The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky last year and this week I have read his 2015 novel ‘A History of Loneliness’ which tackles the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Ireland. It tells the story of Odran Yates who enters Conliffe College seminary at the age of 17 in the 1970s after his mother informs him that he has a vocation. It is there that he first meets Tom Cardle, and the two remain friends despite Tom moving between several different parishes and Odran having his suspicions about why that keeps happening. It isn’t until many years later that Odran is forced to come to terms with what happened and recognise his own complicity. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Ireland
‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney tells the story of teenagers Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron who go to school together in the small rural town of Carricklea in the west of Ireland and later move to Dublin to study at Trinity College in the early 2010s. Marianne is a loner from a well-off family while Connell is popular at school and their romance is kept secret from their classmates. However, Marianne finds friends easily among their privileged contemporaries at university whereas Connell feels alienated, and this sudden reversal in their social status complicates their relationship. Continue reading
‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne is a 700 page epic novel about the life of a gay man, Cyril Avery, which also encompasses the social history of Ireland in the second half of the 20th century. The story is told in seven-year increments, starting with the circumstances leading up to Cyril’s birth in Dublin in August 1945 to an unmarried teenage mother, Catherine Goggin, right up until the year when Ireland legalised same-sex marriage by public vote in 2015. Cyril is adopted as a baby by novelist Maude Avery and her banker husband Charles who uses every opportunity to remind Cyril that he is “not a real Avery” with the couple depriving him of any real affection. During adolesence and beyond, Cyril has an unrequited crush on his best friend, Julian Woodbead, and this experience shapes the rest of his life as he struggles to be honest with other people and with himself. Continue reading
‘Solar Bones’ by Mike McCormack won the Goldsmiths Prize last year and has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year after it was picked up by the UK-based publisher Canongate. It tells the story of Marcus Conway, a middle-aged civil engineer living in a small town on the west coast of Ireland who is sitting at his kitchen table on All Souls Day reflecting on his life with his wife Mairead and their children Agnes and Darragh. Continue reading
‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney tells the story of twenty-one-year-old student and aspiring poet Frances and her friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi who live in Dublin and perform spoken word pieces together. They meet Melissa, a journalist and photographer in her thirties who wants to write a profile of their work, and her husband Nick who is an actor. Frances soon begins an affair with Nick which profoundly changes the dynamic of her friendship with Bobbi and becomes very messy very quickly to say the least. Continue reading
‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue tells the story of Lib Wright, a widowed English nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale during the Crimean war. She is sent to a rural village in Ireland to independently observe Anna O’Donnell, an eleven-year-old girl whose parents claim has not eaten any solid food for four months, subsisting purely on “manna from heaven” and a few teaspoons of water a day. While the community accepts this claim without questioning it and visitors travel from afar to witness the miracle, Lib is immediately sceptical and expects the medical surveillance to be over in a couple of days once the fraud has been exposed. She alternates her shifts with a local nun Sister Michael and considers every possible way food could have been secretly smuggled to Anna. However, as more time passes, Lib starts to doubt her own beliefs and realises that there is more to Anna’s case than meets the eye.
Set in North London at the height of the heatwave of 1976, ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ by Maggie O’Farrell tells the story of Gretta Riordan, a devout Irish Catholic whose husband Robert goes out as usual to buy a newspaper one morning except this time he never comes back. Their three grown-up children, Robert, Monica and Aoife return to help their mother but soon discover that Gretta may know more about his whereabouts than she first admits. Continue reading