Despite my love of writers from the Emerald Isle, I’d never actually read Donal Ryan, but due to him being held in such high regard by fellow readers he was always on my radar to pick up. The time arrived this week with a copy of his latest novel, ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’, kindly given to me by his publishers at Penguin.
I read this book in one sitting (I may seem to be saying this a lot but note that I am an insomniac and have also had a run of brilliant reads lately). The opening few pages had me lulled into a gentle, reading bliss as the magical nature of trees is discussed. I did not know that if one tree is sick, starving for food, then a healthy tree will share its food/nutrients with it regardless of whether they are the same breed. Oh this is beautiful, such a glorious look at nature, I thought I was going to be marvelling at such natural wonders, softly pondering throughout.
Reader, have I even been more wrong. The rest of the book swirled me up, spun me round and wrung my emotions out. I am sat here with that nervous energy you get in your stomach after everything you thought has been flipped on it’s head. It was MARVELLOUS.
The novel is roughly split into three, with each telling the story of a different man. I confess I got roughly 80 percent of the way through this book and then thought, hang on, are these almost like short stories, not ever to come together? But oh that last section when everything begins to interweave – it is stunning. Technically it is perfection, how he gets those threads all pulled together, Ryan makes it seem effortless but you can tell a master is at work.
We begin with Farouk, a Doctor living in Syria with his wife and child, none of who are living up to the expectations of the new forces taking over their country. Knowing that their Western ways will quickly make them a target, they set about planning their escape from the country.
The second of our trio, Lampy, is also the youngest. Living with his mother and grandfather in Ireland, he is a young man full of pent up frustrations. He takes these out on his grandfather, a man who tries to show his love in his own, slightly confused way. Working in a job he has no real passion for, he saves his money so he can take his current girlfriend out in his car of an evening to see how far he can get, the major problem is he can’t get his much loved ex out of his head, occasionally calling out the wrong name at a crucial moment.
Last but not least we meet John, we find him in the confessional finally voicing his real sins, not the made up ones he has presented in Church in the past. We hear about a pain filled youth trying to fill the shoes of a much loved brother, how impossible this seemed and the lengths he then went to trying to take control of his life. John confides about his work history as a ‘lobbyist’, not exactly the cleanest of sheets here, and also the path that his marriage has taken. He lays it all out for his judgement to be passed, although it seems he does not really need to hear this, he already knows where he is going to go.
Each individual could happily occupy an entire novel of their own, but as I mentioned earlier, it is when these stories weave together that true magic happens.
I don’t reread that often but this is one I’ll definitely be coming back to, I feel like I’ll get even more from it the second time round, the characters are so rich there is plenty to work with and think over. For now I need to put it to one side and get over this book hangover, I don’t think I’ll be able to start a new read straighten away as the ending will be ringing in my head for days.
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan £12.99 (Penguin)
Have you read Donal Ryan before? If so what title/titles? I have another of his on the shelf and know it will be getting read pretty soon now! I love when you fall for a new author in this way! Have any authors stole your heart like this recently? Let us know in the comments below!
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So until next time fellow bookworms,