The Spinning Heart
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The Spinning Heart

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,351 ratings  ·  276 reviews
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....more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published October 11th 2012 by Transworld Ireland (first published January 1st 2012)
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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
6th out of 13 books — 204 voters
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2013
10th out of 179 books — 269 voters


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Community Reviews

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karen
this book won "book of the year" at the irish book awards in 2012. if james joyce had published every single book he had ever written in 2012, this book still would have won. hi, i'm karen - i make bold declarative statements. welcome.

this book is a stunner. like Broken Harbour, it speaks to the devastating economic and social climate in ireland after the death of the celtic tiger. in this particular, unnamed, small town, when the local construction company goes out of business and its owner ski...more
Kinga
I didn’t think I would enjoy this novel, or rather novella. I’m wary of those 160 page books; they often seem so lazy in execution, like something the writer just phoned in. You know, you start and immediately you get, ekhm, the sense of an ending.

Additionally, the cover of ‘The Spinning Heart’ looked dangerously close to Alan Hollinghurst ‘The Line of Beauty’, so I expected the book to be half-assed and derivative, as well as full of bleakness steeped in alcohol (it being an Irish book).

As you...more
Fionnuala
The Death of the Spinning Heart

Who killed the heart?
I, said the land owner,
With greed for more kroner
I killed the heart.

Who watched it die?
I, said the developer,
With large loans of guilder
I watched it die.

Who caught its blood
I, said the builder,
With poor bricks and timber,
I caught its blood.

Who’ll make the shroud?
I, said the sub-contractor,
With unpaid bills to factor,
I’ll make the shroud.

Who'll dig the grave?
I, said the banker,
With broad smiles and thankya'
I'll dig the grave.

Who'll be the clerk?...more
Samadrita
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I do not see why this slim novella has garnered such high praise from all corners. This is just another case of it's-not-the-book-it's-me. The rhetoric on depression, grief and some crushing personal tragedy that is harped on again and again grates on the nerves after a while. The meticulous use of the multiple person narrative to bring to life all the aspects of one character through the eyes of every one else, gets overshadowed by the trite nature of the theme...more
Greg
Once again, Karen gets it right.

This could quite possibly be the best book released in early 2014 that goes completely under the radar. I hope I'm wrong about this, and that it gets all the attention it deserves.

This is a deceptively short novel about an Irish town living it large in a boom economy until the Dell, the source of the towns prosperity in the New Economy, decided to close up shop. At the center of this story is the foreman of a construction company that had been building estates (h...more
Sue
In The Spinning Heart, a small Irish town is suffering under the weight of the late 2000s economic bust that saw industry leave the country and the building boom come to a screeching halt. Unemployment is rampant. Alcohol use, always an issue in Ireland and Irish literature, is also rising. Ryan has chosen to present his portrait of the town and time through snapshots of town residents, spoken in their voices.

Chief among them is Bobby Mahon, product of a rough home, but largely appreciated in t...more
Eh?Eh!
karen makes me buy books. I've found that if I pay attention to her reviews, noting any comparisons to other authors or books and how the book feels to her, matching it up against my personal tastes, it's always an amazing reading experience. My (weak) vow to avoid book buying is forgotten as soon as she does the written equivalent of looking at me with wide, earnest eyes that say "you will love this." One of my greatest pleasures is feeling that shift inside when something I'm reading moves me,...more
Dem
The spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.

The Spinning Heart is a collection of chapters with a different character narrating each one. The story is set in a small Irish Town post Celtic Tiger. The main protagonist of the novel is Bobby Mahon and Bobby is connected in some way with all of the other characters in the Novel.

The opening paragaph of this book reads as follows;

"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 ever
...more
Cheryl
These voices come from the same neighbourhoods as Roddy Doyle's and Agnes Owens's. They are the working class of an Irish village, suffering the ongoing effects of the financial crash of the last few years. Each short chapter is in the voice of a different character, chatting to you, explaining or describing recent events in the village in the context of their own lives.

The reader is surrounded by a constant overlapping and at times jarringly different perspectives on key incidents. The charact...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It took me the length of one U2 album to read this novel of connected stories, but it was not light reading. It takes place in recent Ireland, in a small town suffering economic collapse after the housing market didn't have the expected boom, and most men in the town are without employment (or unemployment benefits.) Each story is told by a different character but the story moves forward. I loved the different voices, the different perspectives, and I hope this book makes the Booker shortlist.

Ry...more
Kwoomac
The novel looks into what happened in a small town in Ireland in the wake of the Celtic Tiger boom. There are 21 different characters sharing their perspective of the same time period. Some pretty dramatic things are recounted, including a murder and a kidnapping. It's a melancholy book with a kind of vague ending. I choose to believe all turns out well for one of the characters. Do not argue with
me on this point! La,la,la,la, I can't hear you.

The author was able to create separate recognizable...more
Melissa
"Sober, he was a watcher, a horror of a man who missed nothing and commented on everything, Nothing was ever done right or cooked right or said right or bought right or handed to him properly or ironed straight or finished off fully with him. We couldn’t breathe right in a room with him. We couldn’t talk freely or easily. We were mad about each other, my mother and me, but he made us afraid to look at each other for fear he’d want to know were we conspiring against him. We stopped looking at eac...more
Elaine
I see that this book has gotten a lot of rave reviews, and I did admire the beauty of the author’s language, as well as, especially his ear for the vernacular and the varieties (even within in a village) of spoken (or thought) speech.
Ultimately, however, I felt that the emotional punch of the book was muted. The structure, while interesting, ends up diminishing our engagement with any character in particular – each chapter (20-odd) is narrated by a different character, and each chapter is basica...more
Antonomasia
Recommended by : Goodreads 2013 Booker Prize Eligible list

[4.5] For a while I'd assumed from its place near the top of that list that this Irish novella was one of those Goodreads fads you practically never hear of anywhere else. Then I noticed it had won two awards for Irish books in 2012 but wasn't yet officially published in the UK. (It is now.) And - as I'd read very little new fiction for a few years - I wasn't even aware of the Waterstones Eleven until recently, let alone this book's inclu...more
John Finn
This is the best Irish novel of recent years. The fact that it's a first novel makes it all the more remarkable. I read it in two days - I could barely put it down. It is a sad and poignant story of life in post-Celtic Tiger, recessionary rural Ireland and anyone familiar with it will recognize the people through whose thoughts the novel is narrated. Some of the references may puzzle non-Irish readers and the writing is done in the way the characters speak e.g. "Bobby was always fair sound to me...more
Rebecca Foster
In his impressive debut, Donal Ryan captures the myriad voices of an Irish community in financial and moral crisis. The novel is like a chorus of 21 first-person narratives. Ryan features representatives from every sector of the community: an old woman, a little girl, a Russian immigrant, a single mother, a police officer, a schizophrenic man, and so on. He triumphs at giving each character a distinctive voice, varying by level of diction, thickness of Irish dialect, staid or gossipy tone, and e...more
Diane S.
In 2008, Ireland had an economic collapse with far reaching consequences. In this novel, Ryan presents a small village attempting to cope with the current recession. Each chapter is headed by one of the characters in the village, who tell their story about how they came to be in the positions they are in and how they are or are not coping with things. The character Booby, is the connecting thread, he is the one who knows all the different characters.

There were many of these stories that I liked...more
Anmiryam
Donal Ryan's exploration of village life after the collapse of the Irish economy is full of beautiful writing and interesting characters. It's easy to see why this debut made the Booker Prize long list last summer. Since it is unlikely that many people in either the U.K. or the United States would have discovered this talented writer without this honor, we should all say a huge thank you to the committee for making such a great discovery.

The Spinning Heart has gotten a fair bit of attention for...more
Faith Spinks
The Spinning Heart is one of those books that I spotted here on Goodreads. A friend had read it and loved it so I thought I'd give it a go. Most of the reviews for this book seem to be rave reviews. Mine will not be!

Set in the aftermath of Ireland's financial collapse the tone is understandably heavy and quite depressing. Each chapter of the book is told as if by a different person so that you get the story told from a myriad of perspectives. While the strength of this is a rounded view of the s...more
Ben Dutton
The Irish economy crashed in 2008. The Celtic Tiger was slain, and modern, cosmopolitan Ireland was left in ruins. From the ashes of this once mighty land, from amid the smouldering, empty ghost towns around Dublin, there are whispers of song, of voices trying to be heard, of a people trying to say: we’re still alive in here, we still matter, please don’t forget about us. Donal Ryan’s debut novel, The Spinning Heart, gives voice to those people.

Before being nominated for the Man Booker Prize in...more
Lisa
As I am from the area that the book is set in, I had heard a lot about it, mostly great things so I was really looking forward to reading it for my book club. However I'm torn between loving it, and wondering what was the point of it at all. I initially liked the fact that each chapter was from a separate character's point of view, but there were just so many characters that by the end I was a bit confused, and spent time going back to previous chapters to place people. Also there were some char...more
Skip
The story is set in a small community where a construction firm has closed down following the collapse of the Irish economy. It is a fairly unhappy novel, with characters wounded beyond repair, fractured or desperate, ignorant, depressed, and foul mouthed. The book was disjointed, with every chapter told from a different POV, making it difficult to know the characters, empathize with them, know how they interrelated or even remember their names. There are much better books about Ireland, but thi...more
Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship
There was a spinning heart on the gate at the front of their house, a mocking symbol, Bobby's rough cross.


This book was spectacular. Sad, despondent but spectacular. It's reminiscent of Winesburg Ohio, but very different, because it's more of a look at prejudices and progress; life in a situation, in a time, in a community. It isn't life itself, but the sad part of it as seen in a time of recession and the communal attitudes. The story is centered; there are mystery elements and whodunnits much...more
Emily
I received a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am at a loss on how best to review this gorgeous piece of writing. It is the easiest 5-star rating I have given this year.

I'll start with the facts, then. 160 pages, 21 chapters. Each chapter is narrated by a different character who is somehow linked to a small town outside of Dublin following the economic crash. The chapters are all written using dialect, but never so much that it is difficult to r...more
John Connolly
The Spinning Heart has become something of a phenomenon in Ireland, and won the Guardian First Book Award in the UK this year. It has also been shortlisted for the 2014 Impac Award. It’s a novel constructed from a series of interlinked short stories, each concerning a different character in a small Irish town, and its success is unsurprising. Ryan can write, and although I’m still not entirely convinced that a book constructed from interlinked short stories is actually a novel rather than a coll...more
Kirstine
sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

This word is invented, nevertheless, is there a word for the realization that the lives of people you meet intertwine with yours? That the faces you see every day think about and know you to varying degrees, that your paths are constantly intersecting, sometimes violently, sometimes so softly you hardly even notice.

This book is not about that. It IS that.

It’s written in short, stream-of-consci...more
Aishie
Spectacular, truly spectacular. Set in,what could be any small rural town in Ireland (but is obviously close to Limerick somewhere), this throws a harsh stark light on the aftermath of the lives of people touched by the recession.
I know many of these characters, I have had the misfortune to work for a Pokey-a man who in the height of the good times was flash with his money (one Christmas party, he brought us all to Munich), but sadly when the glint of his shiny cars and his bulging wallet dimme...more
Lucinda
This profoundly affecting, spectacular debut novel is a masterpiece of contemporary literary fiction.

I am so impressed by this remarkable, astonishing novel that touches your heart with its deep meaning and evocative, truth-drawing clarity. Donal Ryan’s accomplished writing is stunningly beautiful, as he incorporates a perfectly harmonized balance of compelling narrative, acutely graphic realism and detailed description. This character-driven study of Ireland’s history and spirit is exquisite,...more
Noeleen
Set in contemporary rural Ireland in the aftermath of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger era, this story was told with a sharp realistic prose and an abundance of true to life characters and situations. There was a lot of wit and amusing situations/characters which were extremely well contrasted with darker and more disturbing situations/characters. The balance was perfect for this story. I'm not too sure how well this book would work for anyone not familiar with Irish rural life but it is one of...more
Ktornbjerg
The literary equivalent of speeding through a small Irish village, while looking out the window at the people living there - lots of ideas of interesting stories, but the structure of the book (each chapter is told by a different character) is incredibly frustrating, and leaves very little time to go into depth with the various stories. I often found myself wanting to stay with some of the characters for a bit longer, especially since some of the stories are definitely more interesting than othe...more
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the spinning heart 1 10 May 19, 2014 09:22AM  
Audiobook version 1 12 Mar 02, 2014 11:50PM  
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Donal Ryan was born in a village in north Tipperary, a stroll from the shores of Lough Derg. Donal wrote the first draft of The Spinning Heart in the long summer evenings of 2010, and has also completed a second novel. He lives with his wife and two children just outside Limerick City.
More about Donal Ryan...
The Thing About December Spinning Heart, The: A Novel

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“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?” 5 likes
“There's no man on this earth can even be assured he'll have a next day.” 3 likes
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