Ah, the Booker Prize. This is another longlisted novel that until it was on said longlist, I didn’t know existed. Needless to say, had it not had the publicity bump from its Booker attention, I would never have read it. The publicity bumph that “it speaks for contemporary Ireland” and is “wry, vulnerable and all too human” made me want to puke on my shoes. But I thought, it’s only 160 pages, if I hate it, I won’t take too long to burn through it.
Well, I didn’t hate it. As we’ve covered, it’s set in contemporary Ireland, in the aftermath of the financial downturn. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and through each of them, the reader can piece together the unpleasant tale of a callous businessman and the fallout of his doing a moonlight flit. It bizarrely shares some story overlap with Fallen Land in its failed housing estate only being partially built, but really could not be more different in pretty much every other way.
The language is just gorgeous. Ryan writes in a very evocative way, the Irish phrases and accent really jump off the page. There’s some brilliant inventions from him too, such as “the Teapot Taliban”. It’s a short book, but it’s not a shallow one. There’s a lot of plot, cleverly distributed, many characters, all richly detailed. If anything, it feels too short, the end a little abrupt. And some of the characters are so much fun you want them to have more than one chapter. But that is hardly a damning criticism, is it? A very pleasant surprise.