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From a Low and Quiet Sea
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2018 Longlist [MBP] > From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

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Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
This thread is for discussion of From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan.

Please be considerate of spoilers when posting your thoughts. Either use the spoiler tag or make it clear at the top of your comment that you will be posting specific details of the story.

Happy reading & discussing!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer My review (which is spoiler free)

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Overall I was a little underwhelmed by this book


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I actually loved it. For me the characters were so rich and real. I loved one of them, liked one and disliked the third. But I found them all very vivid. And Mr Ryan's prose was lovely.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Which character was which in your assessment Kelly?


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I loved Farouk, liked Lampy and disliked John. But I think the latter character was also the most real and relatable if that makes any sense. I am an emotional reader and I vastly prefer character portraits to plot-driven books. So this one worked well for me.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Thanks. Lampy was my favourite. I am more a fan of clever and innovative use of language than plot or character, hence I preferred one of the other Irish entries - Milkman which I have just reviewed.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I love learning about what people love about reading. We are each so unique. I haven't gotten my hands on Milkman yet, but plan to read them all. Some will probably be post short list as I am in Colorado, USA and finding some hard to get. Thanks for the friend request.


Michael | 11 comments My kind of book! I could not imagine how he was going to weave the three characters together in the end, and was delighted with the outcome. Nice way to kickoff the longlist this year. On to Milkman.


Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments I read this in a day. Donal Ryan is one of my favorite writers. I found this a book that I will need time to digest. Farouk's story was one of the most harrowing refugee stories I have read. Lampy was sympathetic, but exasperating. The ending may be some readers as contrived, but I felt it was the ending it needed.


message 10: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay | 2 comments I love the novel, finding it wonderfully moving and fantastically written. The New York Times reviewer, as of today, did not. Parul Sehgal, the reviewer, seems to feel the novel is basically a bad take on immigration, which in my mind misses the point entirely. Curious to know what anyone else might think of her review. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/bo...


message 11: by Toby (new) - added it

Toby Finke (tobyf) | 32 comments I just finished this. Farouk's chapter was amazing to me in every way, while theother two had merit that was much more below the surface. They weren't as beautiful on the surface level, but they were completely honest and realistic. At first I thought this had no chance of winning because of the 'hazyness' to its writing, but then I remembered that the judges end up reading everything on the shortlist 3 times, and I think this book totally lends itself to rereading.


message 12: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I really enjoyed this one, but I suspect it is a little too lightweight to be a potential winner. My review


Katrina (katrinasreads) | 3 comments Some great reviews here. I felt similar to Kelly, I loved Farouk's section, enjoyed Lampy's but struggled with John (I loved the beginning of his section when he was a boy but then felt disconnected). I love character driven books so this was a great read for me. I felt that Ryan did a better job keep the narrative separate and distinct than Sophie Mackintosh in The Water Cure which also has separate narratives for different characters. I'm reading The Mars Rooms next but that needs to wait until I'm back off my holidays - hardbacks aren't ideal to lug around in a beach bag.


message 14: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Jay wrote: "Curious to know what anyone else might think of her review. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/bo..."

Jay, I agree with you. Sehgal's review strikes me as misdirected and ill-tempered: fails to do justice to a moving novel with wonderful characterizations.


message 15: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 511 comments My third Ryan book and by far my favourite (I haven't read All We Shall Know).

Lots of cross references to other books on the long list. Starts with trees, like The Overstory. Includes stories about borders/boundaries, like Everything Under, Warlight and Sabrina (this is becoming the dominant theme as far as I can see).

To continue a discussion above, I liked Farouk most but I thought his story was the least well-developed. Ryan is much more comfortable writing about sad Irish people in a sad Ireland.

(view spoiler)


Michael | 11 comments Neil wrote: "To continue a discussion above, I liked Farouk most but I thought his story was the least well-developed. Ryan is much more comfortable writing about sad Irish people in a sad Ireland."
I agree, I liked the character and the story is devastating, but in the end it feels more tacked-on in a way.
I also agree with your take on John's story, that was my impression as well.


Meike (meikereads) 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 captures human nature by describing particular sentiments and inner movements - those perceptions make for vivid, complex characters, and I don't even need a big story when I can look inside the heads and hearts of such deeply humane protagonists.

Here's my review.


message 18: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay | 71 comments This is my first Ryan. Is his writing style the same in his previous books - a bit free flowing, stream-of-consciousness? I usually don't like that type of writing but this book is totally working for me.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer One thing I will say for this book is that in a year when the judges have effectively decided to unofficially expand the eligibility criteria, it’s nice to recognise that this book is only eligible for the prize due to an official rule change (the one which succeeded due to the lobbying from Tramp Press).


message 20: by Barbara (last edited Aug 03, 2018 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments The exclusion of books that were published by small presses that didn't have imprints in the UK - excluded many books published in Ireland and was outrageous. Solar Bones which recently won the largest monetary award given to books - the Impact Award E100,000- was published by Tramp.


message 21: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni | 11 comments Meike wrote: "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 ..."

I have been unable to read any of the reviews you link on this forum (and the Mookse one) because your account is private and you are not accepting friend requests. Would you consider copy/pasting the reviews instead. I respect your privacy, but would love to see your reviews. :)


message 22: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni | 11 comments This was my first Donal Ryan novel and it won’t be the last. Impressive prose and he is able to convey great complexities with few words. I thought all the stories had considerable strengths, but John’s was for me the most complex and interesting despite the fact that he was the most unlikable of the three characters.

Reading the individual stories and finding them so entirely different from one another, I couldn’t wait to find out how Ryan was going to be able to connect them and had my doubts he would do it successfully, but I think he pulled it off beautifully. I would love to see this on the shortlist.


message 23: by Britta (last edited Aug 05, 2018 02:59PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Jay wrote: "I love the novel, finding it wonderfully moving and fantastically written. The New York Times reviewer, as of today, did not. Parul Sehgal, the reviewer, seems to feel the novel is basically a bad ..."

The opinion of a reviewer who praises Asymmetry and Go, Went, Gone has to be taken with a grain of salt. Or two. (PS: And I normally love Erpenbeck's work, she is one of my favorite contemporary German writers, but her refugee-novel: nope.)


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
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 might have ended at almost any point after the wheelchair-scene and it wouldnt have made a difference. And if there had been an additional chapter after the last one, I wouldnt have been surprised either.

And finally, the overall message, hinted at in the intro that we are all connected, like the trees - or at least we should be - was a bit too sappy for my taste. Still, for me a strong contender for the shortlist.

3.5*


message 25: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay | 71 comments Britta wrote: ""I also found the ending quite arbitrary, in the sense that the book might have ended at almost any point after the wheelchair-scene and it wouldn't have made a difference. ""

Britta, I thought the last scene was there so we can have Lampy's interaction with his grandfather, which with all the losses this book focuses on was a nice addition.


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Kay wrote: "Britta wrote: ""I also found the ending quite arbitrary, in the sense that the book might have ended at almost any point after the wheelchair-scene and it wouldn't have made a difference. ""

Britt..."


Yes, I can see what you mean.


Maggie Rotter (themagpie45) | 3 comments Read this in two sittings and ready to reread. I put it in the pile with Robinson's Gilead novels and Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible. Lives examined from this and that angle, emergence of information that can cause reevaluation of characters - much like in real life.


Michael | 11 comments Britta wrote: "...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)."

Of course that makes sense Britta. As an example of the opposite may I offer Dan Brown? The man can construct a fairly interesting plot, but can't write his way out of a paper bag.

I don't feel like this Ryan novel is going to make the shortlist yet, but it is the first I have read. Working on Milkman now.


Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Maggie wrote: "Read this in two sittings and ready to reread. I put it in the pile with Robinson's Gilead novels and Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible. Lives examined from this and that ang..."

I love the comparisons with Robinson and Strout. I have liked Strout more than Robinson but appreciate their examination of characters' lives.


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments Actually found this book a delight to read, storytelling at its best


Anita Pomerantz Maggie wrote: "Read this in two sittings and ready to reread. I put it in the pile with Robinson's Gilead novels and Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible. Lives examined from this and that ang..."

Love this comparison with Strout though it didn't occur to me. She's one of my favorite writers, and so far this book is my fave of the Booker nominees (still have a ways to go reading-wise though to complete the 13).


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