Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “From a Low and Quiet Sea” as Want to Read:
From a Low and Quiet Sea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

From a Low and Quiet Sea

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,554 ratings  ·  659 reviews
Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.

Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.

John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published March 22nd 2018 by Doubleday
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about From a Low and Quiet Sea, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Susan Zinner
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Susan Zinner
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,554 ratings  ·  659 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of From a Low and Quiet Sea
Mar 27, 2018 added it
I so want to write like Donal Ryan. When I read one of his books I'm just constantly in awe of his phrasing, his structure, and his grace. This was my second book by him, and confirmed that my love of his last book, All We Shall Know, was not a one off.

I really liked the structure of this book - which I don't know if I would call a "novel", per se. Broken into 4 parts, we learn about three very different men, and then how they crash together. It's the type of structure that challenges me to ask
Angela M
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though described as a novel, this felt like three separate stories of three different men, having only in common that each experiences loss and sadness. However, their lives touch in ways in the final part that I did not see coming.

The first narrative is heartbreaking, painful , sad - no other way for me to describe it. It will give me pause every time I read about or see images of families escaping cruel treatment, injustices and regimes where they may be killed at any time. Farouk and his fam
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, arc
Do you know these books that make you fall in love with an author’s writing in a way that makes you want to read everything they have ever written? This was a book like that; it blew me away. I adore Donal Ryan’s way with words and the obvious care he takes to construct perfect sentences.

This is more a collection of short stories but so much more than that in a way (and I say that as somebody who obviously loves short stories). Ryan tells the stories of three widely different men; the only thing
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
From a Low and Quiet Sea presents a wealth of personality facets that are wonderfully captured and animated in Donal Ryan’s writing style. It deserves to be applauded. The mixed emotions of empathy, distaste and concern for the different characters, gives you a full-on emotional experience. There are three very different characters, Farouk, Lampy and John, each tainted by life’s obstacles while they tried to live their hopes and dreams. Farouk, is a refugee fleeing with his family from
Diane S ☔
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although a novel, it tells the story of three very different men who have all suffered losses. The first is Farouk and takes place in Syria, where the war has caused him to flee with his wife and child. Told in a compassionate tone, and heartbreaking to read, it is a story that has been told before. The last two take place in Ireland, Lampy, a young man brokenhearted, with a great deal of anger. He transports people from a care center who have appointments in different places. His grandfather is ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

From a Low and Quiet Sea is a short novel and actually reads more like a book of short stories as opposed to a novel but Ryan's prose and unique characters weave together beautifully to make this a fresh and moving read.

The Book in broken up into 4 parts and in the first 3 parts we are introduced to three very different and colourful characters and in the last part of the book we lean how these characters tales are intertwined.

Donal Ryan's prose and storytelling is flawless and I part
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There must be something in the water in Ireland: Last year, Sebastian Barry brought me to tears with Days Without End and Mike McCormick's Solar Bones left me in complete awe. On this year's Booker longlist and Costa shortlist, Donal Ryan is killing it, and once again, I am deeply impressed. For me, the strength of this book was not the story as a whole, and not even the individual narrative strands; rather, I was smitten with all those little vignettes, the pristine sentences and the way Ryan c ...more
Gumble's Yard
Now longlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize.

If a tree is starving, its neighbours will send it food. No one really knows how this can be, but it is. Nutrients will travel in the tunnel made of fungus from the roots of a healthy tree to its starving neighbour, even one of a different species. Trees live, like you and me, long lives, and they know things. They know the rule, the only one that’s real and must be kept …. Be Kind.

Donal Ryan’s novel starts with a short meditation on trees, one that
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

My respect for Donal Ryan's writing grows with every book I read. This one is a masterly piece of storytelling, a short novel in four parts which appear to have little in common until the final part draws the strings together to deliver a devastating conclusion.

The first part tells of Farouk, a Syrian doctor whose flight from his country with his wife and daughter is related brilliantly and humanely. For me this was everything that the much lauded Exit Wes
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew
From a Low and Quiet Sea is short but potent. It is set up as three separate narratives that come together nicely in the last section. The first segment is told from Farouk’s perspective, a Syrian refugee who dwells on the tragic circumstances of his departure from Syria. The second segment is told from Lampy’s perspective, a young Irish man living with his mother and grandfather. The third segment is told from John’s perspective, an older Irish man trying to reckon with his life. It is not unti ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* 4.5 *

This book ! Oh, I really loved it.

This is a reaction which I found surprising as I had expected to enjoy it in some kind of low and quiet way, appreciatively admiring. But that first story, knocked me for a six emotionally, it was in fifty pages everything I had wanted to get from last years Booker nominated Exit West. It totally made this book a worthy entrant on the 2018 Booker longlist in my opinion.

However, that is only the first section of this novel. It would have been easy for Rya
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are three short and intense stories about three different people. Then the fourth story binds them all together and you feel as if you're suddenly hit on your head when you realise what has happened and what their connection is.
Peter Boyle
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
The opening section of From a Low and Quiet Sea is quite a departure for Donal Ryan. Over the last few years he has earned a reputation as one the most eminent chroniclers of rural Ireland, yet this book begins in war-torn Syria. We are introduced to Farouk, a doctor, who fears for the safety of his wife and young daughter. He learns of a way to escape the country, which seems risky to him, but he eventually acknowledges that it's a better prospect than staying put. We follow the family's nervou ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
And he talked on about the universe, and the oneness of all people and all things, how man was Nature’s way of seeing itself, of feeling what it’s like to be. And he said again to listen, to observe, to do your best to hear beyond the spoken, to see the quality of the light in another’s eyes.

Three short character studies connect to form From a Low and Quiet Sea, a restrained and impressive novel that seeks ‘the quality of light in another’s eyes’.

What I most appreciated about From a Low and
Britta Böhler
I had the same experience with this book as with previous books by Ryan: absolutely loved the writing, the characters and their characterization. But I wasn't too crazy about the plot. Ryan is a fantastic storyteller but not a very good 'plotter' (if that makes sense to anybody else but me).

The way the three stories came together felt too neat and rather forced, esp. John's role in it (the 'wheelchair'-scene was just too much). I also found the ending quite arbitrary, in the sense that the book
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This book consists of three stories that don't link up until the end of the book. I found the first story more compelling than the other two. Those stories had more of a stream of consciousness style, and I wasn't interested in the protagonists. The first, moving story was about a doctor desperately trying to escape from Syria with his wife and young daughter. However, all three stories held my interest, and the first one was so good that I gave the entire book 4 stars. I'd read more by this aut ...more
I love Donal Ryan, and he continues to grow with each novel. I was struck in reading the section about the Syrian refugee doctor that opens the novel, that it reminded me of dystopian novels such as The Handmaid's Tale. Farouk, a doctor who lived a middle class life in Syria, escapes via a terrible boat journey, and ends up in a tent in a refugee camp. His current situation is nearly impossible for him to comprehend, and he recalls his life in Syria. While most dystopian fiction is set in the fu ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book of linked shortish stories has some very impressive writing with a very strong start in the fleeing of Farouk and family from their mother country, Syria I think, on a boat across to god know where. They are full of hope and feel lucky to be 'the ones that got away' that they could stay together and build a new life having just left everything they 'were' behind. From there, while the writing was quite brilliant, I wasn't so captivated by the stories of Lampy and John, but I did like t ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan's previous Booker nominee (The Spinning Heart), and though I bought this upon its initial publication early in the year, I hadn't gotten around to reading it until its own Booker nomination. It's a quick read, taking only a few hours, but a lot is packed into the pages. Ryan's lush prose and deft characterization are once again in evidence, and his development of the interconnections between his three seemingly disparate story lines are worked out with some nice surpris ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably my favorite of Donal Ryan's books that I've read. I think he does get better with each release. The ending was a bit lackluster but overall I enjoyed the storytelling most of his novels and the writing, as always, was beautiful. ...more
Jonathan Pool
An enjoyable read of an author previously unfamiliar to me thought  I found the structure of the book a strange one.
The quality of prose, and in particular the Irish vernacular, and the streams of consciousness in both the "John" and "Lampy" sections, was spectacular.
I can certainly understand why In a Low and Quiet Sea is Booker 2018 long listed.

The opening story”Farouk” stands apart from a book about the Irish psyche, a book whose portrayal of the Irish is mostly uncomplimentary. Dixie (Pop) a
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 rounded down

Three separate (but ultimately linked) stories about three very different men in present day Ireland.

I found the first story - Farouk's - the most moving and engaging, however the other two stories are memorable in their own ways. I also preferred the writing style in the first story, which was less stream of consciousness-y than the other two - which contained a lot of suuuuper long sentences, think like two or three sentences on an entire page. This style was more akin to the w
Roger Brunyate
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
From Over the Water
Armoured they came from the east,
From a low and quiet sea.
We were a naked rabble, throwing stones;
They laughed, and slaughtered us.
This is the beginning of a poem written in school by a very minor character in Donal Ryan's new novel. A schoolmate, the class bully, asks him who is the "we": the Irish resisting the Norsemen, the Anglo-Saxons invaded by Normans, or the victims of some other invasion? The moment somebody uses that plural pronoun, he lays himself open to chall
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Convergence and interconnectedness seem to have been a theme of several books I’ve read recently. For example, Entanglement by Katy Mahood and Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block. Of course, knowing that disparate storylines will converge at some point in a book can mean the reader spends the whole time anticipating that convergence or looking out for subtle clues as to how it will come about. Can I just say, don’t bother with this book, because the author achieves the bringing together of the ...more
From a Low and Quiet Sea is my second Donal Ryan novel after All We Shall Know, and so far he's two for two if we're grading for emotional devastation and positively stunning prose. Ryan's style is everything I love about contemporary Irish literature incarnate - the lyrical, almost breathless writing which deftly balances black humor with an aching sadness, the quiet introspection of his characters, the skillful exploration of pain and loss and grief and religion and loneliness.

From a Low and Q
Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books
4.5 stars

Another beautifully written and moving piece of work by the brilliant Donal Ryan.

Having read Ryan's previous three offerings, I was wondering how he would move on from stories about rural Ireland's dispossessed. Authors write what they know, so moving on to new subjects and into new territory can sometimes mean a sacrifice of the richness of their work. This is certainly not the case here, however.

When Ryan introduces the first protagonist of this new book, we know this is going to be
Katie Long
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is undoubtedly a lovely and well written book, but I found myself admiring it rather than falling in love with it. If I had read it a month ago (before Booker madness began) I might have liked it more, but now it just isn't making the impression on me that several others on the list have. That said, I would have a beer with Pop any time! Booker longlist 6/13 ...more
Roman Clodia
Ryan writes gorgeous, resonant prose full of lyrical cadences but somehow I can never quite love his books in the way I want to. Here he creates 3 mini character studies of men bowed beneath what life throws at them: one is maimed by the extraordinary losses of war and flight, the others by more mundane events, but all 3 are damaged in their different ways. The final section brings them all together in an unexpected way.

This is a short book, under 200 pages, but the depth of emotion conjured bel
Kasa Cotugno
Once again the Booker longlist provides me with a gem I probably wouldn't have found on my own, despite having read and liked previous works by Donal Ryan. The structure here is puzzling, are there three short disparate character studies, but it is described as a novel. But it does become clear with a twist I did not see coming. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Long Take
  • In Our Mad and Furious City
  • Everything Under
  • A Ghost in the Throat
  • Milkman
  • Night Boat to Tangier
  • Snap
  • That Old Country Music
  • Solar Bones
  • Burnt Sugar
  • Lanny
  • Smáglæpir
  • Shadowplay
  • Warlight
  • The Mars Room
  • Hamnet
  • Shuggie Bain
  • The Water Cure
See similar books…
Donal Ryan is the author of the novels The Spinning Heart, The Thing About December, the short-story collection A Slanting of the Sun, and the forthcoming novel All We Shall Know. He holds a degree in Law from the University of Limerick, and worked for the National Employment Rights Authority before the success of his first two novels allowed him to pursue writing as a full-time career.

Related Articles

  Mateo Askaripour is a Brooklyn-based writer whose debut novel, Black Buck—which Colson Whitehead calls a “mesmerizing novel, executing a high...
71 likes · 8 comments
“It was from the experience of blackening that boy that I learned an important and valuable lesson: if you say something enough times, the repetition of it makes it true. Any notion you like, no matter how mad it seems, can be a fact’s chrysalis. Once you say it loud enough and often enough it becomes debatable. Debates change minds. Debate is the larval stage of truth. Constant, unflagging, loud repetition completes your notion’s metamorphosis into fact. The fact takes wing and flutters from place to place and mind to mind and makes a living, permanent thing of itself.” 4 likes
“if you observe a man closely and properly you’ll eventually come to know the shade of his soul. No soul is brilliant white, save for the souls of infants. But there are men alive who will do evil without pause, who are without mercy, and there are men alive who would rather die than harm another, and all of the rest of us fall somewhere in between.” 3 likes
More quotes…