July 2016

Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney – 3.5/5

A bleak soap opera of unhappy families, drug dealers, prostitutes, addictions and domestic abuse – yet not as dark or gritty as the subject matter might suggest.  McInerney’s prose has an original rhythm and good flow; I expected a slightly less conventional story structure to match.  The plot, however, neatly slots piece to piece with little that is unexpected in a fairly standard coming of age story.

Ryan comes from a family of drinkers and in his mid-teens, dreams of the future and escape, buoyed by the love of his beautiful girlfriend.  His journey to manhood is paved with a growing disillusion as he becomes a minor player in bigger dramas, and his own potential slips out of reach.

Very readable story, but peopled by ‘gangsters’ and an ‘underworld’ that I didn’t quite believe in.  The cover suggested something cutting edge, but the story lacked the actual edginess to back it up.  A bit too poetic?  There was no real sense of desperation or sharpness or brutality in the characters or their situations.

On one level an enjoyable read, on another, a bit disappointing.  The style of writing would encourage me to try the author again in the future, to see how she develops.

The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler – 3.5/5

A house uncared for, crumbling into the sea; a family of professional mermaids all destined to drown on the same date; and a mysterious book about a travelling circus that ties these two things together…

Simon’s life is literally falling apart around him – the house he grew up in, and the job he has just lost.  But the girl next door is on the cusp of becoming something more, and his sister is coming back to visit after long years away, so it’s not all bad. In the midst of everything else, Simon is sent an old book by an unknown book dealer, and finds himself sucked into a world that seems to unlock his own unusual family history.

The writing is unremarkable but the story is engaging enough.  The coincidences of fate and family are admittedly far-fetched, but it is not a novel that is steeped in realism, so that was not too big an issue.  It did manage to build up some tension and was not quite as predictable as I was afraid it might be.  A good bit of escapism that skates around something slightly deeper.

The plot bears some passing resemblance to the Coincidence Authority by J W Ironmonger, but was ultimately far more likeable .  I imagine it might also appeal to fans of Andrew Kaufman, The Waterproof Bible etc.  The Seas by Samantha Hunt is touches on different aspects of the mermaid myth and is beautifully written.

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