"Finnegan’s novel, much like his decision to get on the popular-fiction dance floor, is smart or, as his publicist says, a “high-concept” debut. Effic...more"Finnegan’s novel, much like his decision to get on the popular-fiction dance floor, is smart or, as his publicist says, a “high-concept” debut. Efficiently tapping into the zeitgeist, Finnegan’s novel focuses on a bunch of thirtysomething Dublin-based colleagues thrown to the lions of penury, boredom and sexual misadventure when they are made redundant from their high-spec office jobs and end up getting plastered in a local hostelry before forming an ad-hoc film club. Finnegan, sure-footed and confident, creates a sturdy read..." --Hilary Fannin - The Irish Times
The Forced Redundancy Film Club is a smart novel that contains just the right amount of comedy and tragedy to make it enjoyable for anyone to read. The film theme throughout, beginning quite aptly with Casablanca - "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" - and ending even more aptly with It's A Wonderful Life, is both original and effective. His novel gives the reader a cutting insight into the lives of five very typical Irish individuals, from exhausted mother of three to the spinster orphan with no social skills, and pulls it off perfectly. The beauty of The Forced Redundancy Film Club is that it can - like all classic movies - be enjoyed, not specifically by just women or just men, but by anyone who loves a good story. -- Deirdre O'Brien, Entertainment.ie
'With his zeitgeist debut novel, Brian Finnegan brings us a warm, funny, touching, sexy, romantic, thoroughly enjoyable, brilliantly-plotted page-turner, whose faith in the redemptive power of our love offers a ray of sunshine for our gloomy times.' -- Adrienne Murphy, Hot Press
"A satirical observation on life in the midst of Recession 2012, The Forced Redundancy Film Club is set to become a cult classic." The Sligo Weekender.
I Sent a Letter to My Love is about Amy Evans, an ugly woman in her fifties who lives with and reluctantly cares for her disabled brother, Stan, in a...moreI Sent a Letter to My Love is about Amy Evans, an ugly woman in her fifties who lives with and reluctantly cares for her disabled brother, Stan, in a small Welsh seaside town. In a desperate bid for love and a life of her own she places a classified advert in the local paper and the only answer she gets is from her brother, who secretly has romantic and sexual desires of his own. Amy creates an alter ego called Blodywn Pugh and begins a correspondence with Stan. This is a perfectly polished jewel of a book, heartbreaking, hilarious, life-affirming and full of characters so real they live in your imagination long beyond the final page. The Booker prize-winning Bernice Rubens may be a largely forgotten author, but it’s well time she was rediscovered and celebrated. (less)
At the beginning of Cinnamon Toast and The End of the World, Stephen Shulevitz’s world as he knows it comes to an end. He’s reached the sudden realisa...moreAt the beginning of Cinnamon Toast and The End of the World, Stephen Shulevitz’s world as he knows it comes to an end. He’s reached the sudden realisation that he’s in love with his best buddy, Mark, and that he desperately wants to kiss him.
This is a ‘coming out’ novel. You know from the opening scene that Stephen will have to overcome a series of emotional obstacles before eventually coming to terms with his sexuality; that towards the end he’s going to tell Mark that he fancies him, for better or worse; and that there’s going to be some deep issues with Stephen’s parents that he’s going to have to sort out along the way. There’ll probably be a story arc featuring Stephen’s close female friend too. As with any romance novel, where the two paramours are introduced in the opening chapter and you know that on the very last page they will get together, the table is set for a three-course meal you’ve consumed several versions of before.
The desire to keep reading a novel in such a well-trodden genre is founded in questions about how the journey will unfold, and the mark of success is whether it keeps the reader questioning.
Luckily Cameron knows how to keep the questions popping up. She's a talented writer, and the journey she takes us on is always pleasurable, sometimes moving, and has a lyrical literary style that separates it from the masses of ‘coming out’ fiction that litter the queer cannon. It also dares, at times, to jumble up the equation and come up with different answers, as in a later reunion scene between Stephen and his absent, drop-out Dad, Stanley, in which a lesser novelist would have given her readers warm, fuzzy emotional resolution. Before any conclusion is reached, Stanley says: “I think this conversation has run its course.” Stephen, instead of getting his father to say he loves him, is left in confusion, and Cameron resists any urge to move Stanley centre stage again for the tying up of loose ends.
The tale is set in 1987, mostly in the small Canadian town of Riverside, where boredom rather than outright prejudice drives the violent motivations of its teenage population. Cameron clearly loves the eighties. The book is filled with playful cultural references to the era. When Stephen contemplates suicide, he does so through the filter of watching an umpteenth Friday The 13th sequel. At the inevitably excruciating prom, he dances with rebellious abandonment to Aha’s The Sun Always Shines on TV.
He may be surrounded by stalwarts of the genre – the best girlfriend (Lana) who secretly fancies him, the ambivalent but unavailable love interest, the school bullies – but its in her depiction of supporting characters, like Lana’s immigrant father, Mr. Kovalenko (“a look on his face like he’d been chewing old sardines”), and Stephen’s fleeting, sexually gluttonous girlfriend, Tina Thompson, with her “muscular tongue”, that Cameron really lights up. Stephen himself is a sharply drawn protagonist, his teenage view of the world suitably cynical, but underlined with almost poetic, acute observation.
Towards the end the inevitable happens, and as Stephen’s orientation becomes known to his peers, he becomes more and more vulnerable. Cameron isn’t afraid to shift the lighthearted tone of the first half of the novel into much darker territory, and during the penultimate, chaotic scene between Stephen and Mark, you begin to think this might not turn out the way all ‘coming out’ novels turn out, after all.
You’ll have to read the book to find out if it does, but in the meantime I’m taking bets that Cameron’s second novel will leave the ‘coming out’ genre behind. She’s simply a writer, a good one, who likes to tell a cracking story. That this story is about a gay boy finding himself is incidental.(less)
Although I wasn't a huge fan of The Curious Incident, I loved Mark Haddon's second adult novel, A Spot of Bother. I think he is brilliant at writing t...moreAlthough I wasn't a huge fan of The Curious Incident, I loved Mark Haddon's second adult novel, A Spot of Bother. I think he is brilliant at writing the dynamics of family, the mixture of love, resentment, competition, annoyance and friendship that comes with having parents and siblings. While A Spot of Bother was quite comedic, and very moving, in its exploration of the breakdown of a parent, The Red Room is a much darker take on family dynamics altogether. But it's nonetheless gripping and beautifully written. An estranged brother and sister, Angela and Richard, go on holidays together in rural Wales with their respective families after the death of their mother, and the story unfolds over a week staying in The Red House. The younger characters were the most interesting to me, particularly the 16 year-old self-serving, calculating bully Melissa, and catastrophically confused Jesus-freak Daisy, who is the same age. The relationship that develops between the two, who have only met each other for the first time is much more the excruciating heart of this book than the one between Angela and Richard. Whereas A Spot of Bother ended with a sense of resolution, by the time the book ends, the two families go their separate ways and few conclusions have been come to, except maybe for Daisy who has come to a moment of self-realisation. Hovering over this book is the imagined ghost of Angela's stillborn first child, Karen, and she makes for a genuinely creepy presence, even if she ends up being the glue that just may hold this disparate group of people together. A fine read, full of wonderful literary tricks and quirks, but I'm a sucker for resolution, so it left me feeling a little frustrated. (less)
Tom Galvin's Gabriel's Gate opens with it's main character, G, spying on a flock of crows scavenging in an empty schoolyard. It's a potent image, one...moreTom Galvin's Gabriel's Gate opens with it's main character, G, spying on a flock of crows scavenging in an empty schoolyard. It's a potent image, one that permeates not only the book's commentary on a country brought to its knees by the scavenging of bankers and property developers, but also G's psyche - crows having become a symbol of all that is evil in his childhood. The premise of Gabriel's Gate is not a new one - the Utopian ideal of commune living turns sour as reality bites - but its setting in post-boom Ireland lends it a new energy. The novel follows a group of students who rather than emigrate after college, come together to live off the land on a farm inherited by G's best friend, John. At the centre of the commune is the friendship between the two, and while G is a sceptic who doesn't trust the world, he has misguidedly placed his trust in John. For at the heart of the farm, with its statue of Gabriel guarding the gates, is a dark property development secret that culminates in tragedy. As the gang works the land through the seasons, getting their hands dirty in ways they never imagined, Galvin stealthily delivers a multiple-layered narrative that is at once a black comedy of errors, astute social commentary and creeping Gothic horror. There is a malevolent presence stalking the farm and its inhabitants, and as each night falls, unknown terror draws closer. Many of the reviews of this novel talk about Galvin's years living in Poland and their influence on his sparse, filmic writing style, but this is a quintessentially Irish book, in the way John B Keane wrote Irish books. They told stories that had the underpinnings of mythology and spoke about the deep connection of the Irish people to land through ancestry. Keane's tales were set in an Ireland that never knew wealth, while Galvin's mythological story unfolds in an Ireland that has squandered it. Arguably he has written the first book about the spirit of Ireland in a new age and with it he has become the front-runner of a new generation of Irish writers.(less)
I loved this book. Not only for it's brilliant characterization, it's deconstructed structure and clever plotting, but because it's a book about so ma...moreI loved this book. Not only for it's brilliant characterization, it's deconstructed structure and clever plotting, but because it's a book about so many things - growing older, mortality, information overload, alienation, family, the nature of friendship in a changing society, the power of music to connect, the future of humanity... and so much more. (less)