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The Spinning Heart

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,644 ratings  ·  460 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.
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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 LahiriThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
6th out of 13 books — 239 voters
Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2013
8th out of 176 books — 292 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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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?
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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
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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
Maciek
The Spinning Heart is the debut of Irish novelist Donal Ryan, and a good one. Although the book was rejected dozens of times by various publishing houses, when it finally appeared in print it found not only an audience, but also appreciation - it won the Guardian First Book Award and was longlisted for the Booker prize. I can see the appeal - The Spinning Heart is a touching, beautiful book, but one that ultimately falls victim to its own structure and theme.

The Spinning Heart is set in a small
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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
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Lisa
This is the best book I've read in a very long time. I think it's a masterpiece. This is the first paragraph:

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 smiles at me; that terrible smile. He knows I'm coming to check is he dead. He knows I know he knows. He laughs his crooked laugh. I ask is he okay for everything and he only laughs. We look at each other for a while and when I can no
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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
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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
Blair
This earned its place on my to-read list because of a plethora of positive reviews from Goodreads friends and other respected sources; prior to that, I'd heard of it but had little interest, feeling it would be dry and worthy and depressing. It is actually almost the opposite of that - readable, entertaining and often funny (though still a bleak story), it reminded me of Tana French's Broken Harbour in more ways than one. Using a chorus of narrators - each taking their turn for a chapter, none ...more
Jenna
This is an amazing story told by many voices during an economical collapse in a small Irish town. It's incredible that a novel can be presented from multiple points-of-view and yet remain cohesive. This story will touch on all of your emotions and leave you satisfied when it is all over. I highly recommend this read!
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
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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
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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
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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
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Gearóid
Really powerful and moving writing.
I remember years ago going to my first play The Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan.
I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up it was so real and powerful.
That is the way this book effected me also.
Some people will say this is a sad and depressing book and it is sad and maybe depressing
but it is also full of humour through all the hardships which is uplifting.
At times you will laugh really hard.

I really love his way or writing and the way he writes in th
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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
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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
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
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
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Barbara
I thought that in such a short book the author managed to convey a wide panorama of the impact of the economic crash in Ireland. There were so many voices in this book; Ryan was masterful.

Read a second time and it was better the second time.
Declan
This novel is the literary equivalent of a photo-realist painting. It has to be measured against the reality of what it wishes to portray. That reality is quite familiar to me in that I feel I have met several of the people in this book, or someone very like them. So, he succeeds in creating authentic portraits of particular rural or small-town Irish people. He has the language (especially the 'bad' language), the rhythms, and the peculiar constructions that are left-overs of the Irish language ...more
Margaret Madden
Updated review....
I had wanted to read this even before it was Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013 and was delighted when I finally got my hands on a first edition!

Donal Ryan's Debut novel is a work of art.
Written in the form of short stories which are interlinked via a common factor, it is quite reminiscent of Roddy Doyle's " The Deportees ".

Set in a country town near Limerick, this novel shows the cause and effects of one greedy property developer in recent times and how the Celtic Tiger
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Paul
The book is set in the aftermath of when the celtic tiger stopped roaring. The economy has gone into free fall, the housing bubble has spectacularly popped and a layer of gloom and despondency hangs over the town where the book is set.

There are a series of voices that tell the story of people who have lost jobs, livelihoods, money homes and friends. Each of the characters, in their own voices and dialects, tell the story of this collapse, and as the community faces its bleakest challenge, dark e
...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
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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
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☔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
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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
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
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the spinning heart 2 31 Aug 30, 2014 08:52PM  
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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.
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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?” 6 likes
“There's no man on this earth can even be assured he'll have a next day.” 3 likes
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