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The Spinning Heart

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,877 ratings  ·  886 reviews
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2013
Shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award 2014
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013
Winner of Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2012

'Funny, moving and beautifully written’ Edna O'Brien

In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters f
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 25th 2019 by Black Swan Ireland (first published October 11th 2012)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  6,877 ratings  ·  886 reviews

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Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
The Spinning Heart is an outstanding book that vividly portrays the damage the financial crisis had on people’s lives in Ireland while elevating our reading experience to such wonderful heights with beautiful poetic writing.
“There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind, though. I can hear it creak, creak, cre
The Tragic Demise 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 th
Nat K

"It's a strange dichotomy, so it is; feeling and knowing; the feeling feels truer that the knowing of its falseness."

It's hard to read a book by an Irish writer and not be reading it with an Irish accent in your head. Or maybe just that's just me.

This book blew me away. The deftness with which the stories are pulled together the further you delve into the book is astonishing. Is this a novella? At a pinch I'd say it squeezes into that mold.

Each chapter of this book is told from the perspective o
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
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2012
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
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
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best word to describe the relationship between Bobby and his father is toxic. Everyday Bobby travels back to the little cottage in which he grew up to check if his father is still alive, and everyday Bobby is disappointed to find that he is. There is a red metal heart in the centre of the gate to the cottage, rusted, paint flaking off, a metaphor for his father’s equally broken down heart. We find later in the book that his father had an eerily similar relationship with his own father.

Rae Meadows
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very impressed with this book as a project--a story of an Irish town after the financial collapse told through 21 different voices, one per chapter, none of them repeated. There's plenty of violence and sadness, but also some moments of goodness, and overall I really liked how the lens keeps shifting around the town for different perspectives on the same events.

I struggled some with the dialect, and some of the voices/characters are much stronger than others. The Rory chapter I found parti
This review originally appeared on my blog, Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books.

The way we consume national cultures has always been fascinating to me. National identity as a pre-packaged product and lifestyle, national identity and history as a foundational rationale for political moves, this idea of a constructed identity somehow being “natural” or something that lives in our very alike bloodcells. (Man, did anyone else read that BBC study where some scientists triumphantly pointed out that the gene p
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Spinning Heart is a debut novella by Donal Ryan that describes a fractured community in a small rural Irish town in the wake of an economic recession. A local building firm, on which many families depend for their livelihood, has collapsed. The contractor has absconded, and left many workers jobless, in debt, and without their pension. In 160 pages, The Spinning Heart paints a cheerless and oppressive world from which I wish to flee. More than the bleakness of the financial circumstances is ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whittemore-women
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
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Spinning Heart is just tremendously, unbelievably good.  Set in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, Donal Ryan chronicles the impact of the recession on a close-knit rural community.  With about twenty different points of view, the chapters are short, each a couple of pages long, and the novel is bookended by chapters from a married couple, Bobby and Triona.  Bobby is the novel's central character, each of the other characters connected to his story in some way, but it's hard to give a plot synopsis ...more
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
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, no ...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
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, to-review
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! ...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.

Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
Donal Ryan’s debut novel chronicles the aftermath of the post-2008 Irish economic collapse through the voices of 21 residents of one of Ireland’s small towns, with the main character of Bobby Mahon, a young construction foreman and father as the witness to his neighbors demise, their foreclosures and failing health problems. Mahon’s character has such a quality of goodness and decency that without the references to the use of “prefab” construction materials, Facebook, and cell phones you might f ...more
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
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
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
“So I'm going to Australia in the context of a severe recession and therefore I am not a yahoo or a waster but a tragic figure, a mother and incarnation of the poor tenant farmer, laid low by famine, cast from his smallholding by the Gombeen Man, forced to choose between the coffin ship and the grave. Mattie Cummins and the boys were blackguards; I am a victim. They all left good jobs to go off and act the jackass below in Australia; I haven't worked since I finished my apprenticeship. He has
Jim Elkins
The Untranslatability of Irish-English

I read this because I heard Donal Ryan read -- he's spectacular: very funny, modest, engaging and dramatic -- and because it's been said that he gives voice to life after the Celtic Tiger.

Principally what interests me in "The Spinning Heart" is its use of language. In terms of content, there are good passages in the book, but the stories, and events tend to be maudlin, sentimental, and bathetic. The characters tend to be crazily fragile or horribly stubborn,
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.
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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.

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