I make no secret of the fact that I have fabulous friends. For my birthday, four of my closest book buddies bought me an amazingly thoughtful present – a gift subscription for a local bookshop. Every month, the kind lady at the shop is going to send me a brand new book, chosen by her, taking into account my likes and dislikes etc. So there was a lot of emotional energy invested in my first book, which arrived at the start of April. It was ‘The Spinning Heart’ by Donal Ryan.
As the recession has hit Ireland, the lives of rural inhabitants have been severely affected. The novel tells some of their stories, through 21 separate chapters. Their language is direct; each writer speaks in the first person, straight to the reader. To start with their voices seem dissociated, but as the novella progresses (its only 160 pages long); you begin to understand the connections between the people. Structurally it’s a cleverly composed work. There is no doubt that this is a great book, especially as it’s a debut novel. It has received widespread critical acclaim and rave reviews.
So whilst I am able to acknowledge Ryan’s skill, I did not like the book. Given how much I wanted to like it, I did try really, really hard. It got better towards the middle and the ending, because there are some plot events which I wanted to see concluded. My main issue was that I couldn’t ‘hear’ the narrators’ voices. The work is largely written in authentic, Irish language: I know very few Irish people with strong accents have never visited the Emerald Isle and have next to no knowledge of its history or customs. Because of this, many of the subtleties and nuances of the vocabulary and narration were completely lost on me, as I struggled to get to grips with the bulk of the work. ‘Bayjasus’ doesn’t pack the same punch if you can’t hear someone shouting it!
I can’t really recommend this book, largely on the basis that I didn’t enjoy it. However, I hesitate to be too harsh as, judging by the reviews and plaudits heaped upon it, I’m in the woeful minority.
Must be a feckin’ eejit.