This is a colorful, ambitious first outing that recalls Dylan Thomas’ comment on Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: “Just...

THE GLORIOUS HERESIES

Drink, drugs, and religion are the familiar demons hounding young and old in Cork City, Ireland, where an accidental murder darkens several lives in this vibrant debut.

When Maureen kills an intruder in her home, her gangster son, Jimmy, hires an old buddy named Tony to help dispose of the corpse. The victim, a drug addict named Robbie, had been living with a prostitute named Georgie, who worked in the building where Maureen lives when it was a brothel and who makes a drug buy through local madam Tara. That’s how Georgie comes to know the young dealer Ryan, Tony’s son, who one day succumbs to Tara’s charms, as she lives next door and he is seeking respite from his father’s violence. As the narrative meanders across some five years in a depressed economy that forces many to choose “between the airport and the dole queue,” fate treats few of these players kindly. Ryan does jail time, Tony and Georgie try rehab, and two unplanned pregnancies emerge. Jimmy’s concern that his mother’s homicide will be revealed by Tony, Tara, or Georgie produces a rising tension that leads to more than one ending and two awkward flashbacks. Amid an exceptional cast, Ryan has too many facets and doesn’t quite gel, as victim or rising hood. The three main women are all well-drawn figures, with Maureen a real standout amid so much dependency, a refreshing maverick full of scathing comments on religion and hypocrisy. There’s other challenging language here, be warned, both obscenity and slang, which might be harsh or unwelcome to some ears but also, like the Irish English McInerney composes, possesses its own enticing music.

This is a colorful, ambitious first outing that recalls Dylan Thomas’ comment on Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: “Just the book to give your sister, if she is a dirty, boozey girl.”

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-8906-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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