Belinda McKeon

First Sentence:   It had been years since Tom’s son had spent so long at home.

I got a proof of this book back in April and read it straight away as I knew it was a book we’d be hearing a lot about this year. At the time I wasn’t fully sure how I felt about the book and if I’m telling the truth, nothing’s changed in the last four months. I still don’t know how I feel. This is a strange novel. On the one hand it is clear to anyone who reads this that McKeon is a wonderfully gifted writer, and it is an extremely enjoyable experience to read her prose. It’s just that it’s very difficult to get excited about this sort of book. At least I think so anyway. It just doesn’t fizz and crackle. And that’s fine, I guess, because it’s not supposed to fizz and crackle. It is lovely, the writing  glows, it has warmth and charm in abundance, it is clearly highly accomplished and full of subtlety and restraint and yet also, just whisper it, ever so slightly dull.  With a little bit more drama this could have been a winner and I can understand the lavish praise being heaped on this book by her fellow writers as it really is full of gorgeous writing and yet, all the quotes adorning the jacket are filled with words like ‘heartfelt’, ‘quiet’, ‘careful’, ‘lovely’, and ‘elegant’, descriptions I’m in full agreement with, but for me I hope for just that little bit more from a novel. As it is, it is certainly a wonderful debut and McKeon is a writer I’m sure I’ll be reading again in the future. I’m just not convinced this one is essential reading.

* * *

Last Sentence:  He would Follow.

Last Sentence explained:   The basic plot in this book is centered around Mark Casey, a country boy who moves to Dublin to study literature. In Dublin he falls for trainee solicitor Joanne and not long after, she falls pregnant and Aoife is born. Tragedy inevitably follows, and in its aftermath Mark’s relationship with his father Tom is exposed as one of the main focal points of the book. (It is fitting that the opening sentence refers to Mark not as Mark, but as Tom’s son.) In the end, Mark has only his father and Aoife left and after years of a somewhat strained relationship, the father and son bond is improving.


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