All We Shall Know

all-we-shall-know

Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     Martin Toppy is the son of a famous traveller and the father of my unborn child.

Back of the book:

Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.
It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.
Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.

Quotes from the book:

But still he stayed with me, and I was terrified of losing him, and we insisted on marrying each other, and lowering ourselves onto a bed of terrible, scalding, comfortably familiar pain.

‘The story was there all along, in the wheeling stars, in its entirety , the parts already told and all the parts to come, Brailled in dots of light against the black.’

And I’m frightened now that I was such a show, and I’m frightened about what will be said, and I’m frightened about what will reach my father’s ears, and how his heart will speed and slow in worry and fear, and how he’ll want to help but won’t know how, so will stand at the window, and watch the weather, and wait.

Thoughts:

This is my favourite Donal Ryan book so far. There’s a sentence early on in the book (page 18 in the copy I have) that begins  “I could still fly to London and end this […]”. This sentence contains more emotion, is more heartbreaking, and has more substance to it than entire books I have read in the past. It’s too long to reproduce here, but even just for that one sentence this book deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates quality writing. A very fine book indeed.

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The Thing About December

The Thing About December

Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     Mother always said January is a lovely month.

Back of the book:

‘He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn’t hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy’s voice. But you’d have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.’

While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns.

Set over the course of one year of Johnsey’s life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is.

Quote from the book:

Some things is easy do, when you have no choice in the world but to do them. Like shiteing into a bedpan, in front of a nurse. Or having bits of you felt and examined and talked about by doctors in quare words that don’t sound like normal English. Thinking about it, it seemed as though it was always that way. It’s easy have things happen to you. All you have to do is exist. Making things happen back is the hard thing. Like words: they’re grand to listen to from other people, and when they’re words spoken by the Lovely Voice, they’re like a 99 with a flake in the middle of summer, but it’s fair harder to try to arrange them for yourself. There’s no pleasure in listening to yourself, that’s for sure, only hardship in the knowing of your own stupidity.

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The Spinning Heart

The Spinning Heart

Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in.

Back of the book:

‘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.

Quotes from the book:

‘I wish to God I could talk to her the way she wants me to, besides forever making her guess what I’m thinking. Why can’t I find the words?’

I have one memory of Frank that will always abide, though, when all other memories are faded to a series of blurred impressions, the way memories of a book will fade, even one that gripped you so much that you couldn’t sleep until you finished it.

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