Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

""My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn't yet missed a day of letting me down."

In the aftermath of Ireland's financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

Donal Ryan's brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction."

I thought I would love this book, what with it being Irish and all.  If I'm honest, that is the only reason that I chose to read it (along with the fact that it was award winning).  The first paragraph is brilliant, typical Ireland and you can hear the Irish lilt in your head as you read it.  It made me laugh. However, the remainder of the book left me feeling lost and bewildered.

The Spinning Heart has 21 chapters, each told by a different person, and in that respect, reminds me somewhat of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas; a book that I could not engage with in any way and stopped reading after a few chapters. If I'm honest, I wouldn't have got much further than chapter three with this book, had it not been for my mum.  She had read the book previously and wanted me to finish it in order to be able to tell her whether it was just her that felt like she had no clue who anybody was or what had just happened. 

So I persevered....

Having just finished the book, I took to Amazon to read the other reviews, and I see that overall The Spinning Heart gets five star reviews.  I've skimmed down them, and I feel like these people have read a different book to me.  

The Spinning Heart is dubbed as a tale of rural Ireland, following Ireland's crash into recession.  The book indeed touches on that, but for me, doesn't really feel like it is about that.  In fact, it doesn't really feel like it is about anything in particular.

You do appreciate how the same story differs when told from another persons perspective, but the book, for me, didn't delve deeply into any aspect of the plot and as I have said left me feeling lost and bewildered.  There are questions left unanswered, and I still do not know what relevance certain aspects and characters had to the overall story, other than an understanding of the 'difficult times'.

I am sorry to say that I did not find the book either dramatic or engaging.  I spent most of the time trying to work out who on earth this next character was and how they were linked to the story, and perhaps this contributed to my feeling that nothing really happened.

I certainly wouldn't recommend to someone who is not used to the Irish language (which I myself am).  In addition, you have to concentrate hard to piece the characters together and search deep for the thread that links them all, and even then I'm not sure what exactly it is you gain from reading the story.  Although it is only a short book, at around 160 pages, it isn't a "quick and easy read".

That all said, it appears that many people have read this book and felt that it was the work of a genius.  Maybe I am missing something?

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