Tag Archives: Irish author

This Is How It Ends – Kathleen MacMahon – 7/10

“A human anachronism, sitting there fossilising in the window while the rest of the world carried on without him.”

Kathleen MacMahon’s debut novel hit the headlines for receiving a £600,000 advance from Sphere, unheard of in today’s difficult publishing economy. A huge stake on a novel about an American man who escapes the 2008 election by travelling to Ireland to seek out his family roots. His roots aren’t so keen to be dug up though, with difficulties of their own including broken wrists, recent miscarriages and a rescue dog named Lola.

I can’t fault this novel, and yet I’m struggling to be hugely enthusiastic about it either.

Addie, Hugh, Della and Brian are fun characters, each carefully drawn and with plenty of difficult back-story; their meetings and interactions sufficiently awkward and serendipitous at once to be credible, each not seeking out what lands with them. Addie, in particular, struck a chord; a lonely woman of 38, professionally successful but with a string of terrible men in her wake, seeking companionship from a rescue dog and salvation in the strong arms of the sea. Her sister Della seems to have it all – the happy family life, the outgoing character, the interesting wardrobe choices; and yet Della is obviously melancholy herself.

The novel is very set in its time; the 2008 US federal election is a constant theme and I fear the novel will date because of this. Nevertheless, Brian’s American-ness is strong and well-conveyed; the conflict between his desire to be more than American, more than Obama v McCain, Gore v Bush, and his Irish cousins’ reluctance to let him claim any Irishness is unexpected and simmers for quite some time.

Part of the beauty of this novel is that it doesn’t really have a plot; it has some people and some circumstances and the author sits back and stirs the pot every now and again but mostly just lets the characters interact.

Additional information:
Copy provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Publisher: Sphere, 400 pages (paperback)
Pre-order This Is How It Ends from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

After the Lockout – Darren McCann – 5/10 (DNF)

“Being right is cold comfort when the whole world is wrong”

In November 1917, Victor Lennon receives the summons he’s been avoiding for ten years. While he’s been fighting for a communist republic in the Dublin Lockout and Easter Rising, his father has been drinking the family wealth. The dogmatic local bishop Benedict sends for the young man, bringing hardened and cynical politics into a thus-far tranquil village and ends up with much more of a revolutionary than he can handle. Victor helps his father back onto his feet, fixes up the farm, and falls back in love with his childhood sweetheart. If only Ida Harte would step out of the story…

McCann renders 1917 country Ireland well, with simple supporting characters and an undeniably strong sense of community in the village folk of Madden. The key characters, Benedict and Victor, are forcefully and diametrically opposed in their opinions, but have critical flaws of character which render both quite unsympathetic.

The narrative drags at first; almost the first third of the book was devoted to exposition and character description before Victor returns to Madden. I understand the need to give Victor a certain history and show the reader just how committed he is to the revolution, but it became dull rather quickly.

I did not finish this book; the combination of a very slow start and unsympathetic characters – Victor seems to bring all his trouble upon himself, philandering and politicising – made it a dull read for me. Those with a stronger interest in the era or more patience with stubborn, opinionated, womanising protagonists would enjoy it more.

Additional info:
This  copy was sent for review by We Love This Book, where a shorter version of this review will appear.
Publisher: HarperCollins, 239 pages
Order After the Lockout from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 645 other followers