The Spinning Heart | Donal Ryan

SpinningHearth RyanThe Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a literary novel with the story told by several different characters.

“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 hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.”

 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. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

 Donal Ryan’s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.

This was lovely, but somewhat thin.

The writing was absolutely gorgeous. Descriptive, imaginative, just beautiful. The main problem with it was that the lyricism felt strange in the mouths of some of the characters. I did feel that some of the characters ‘sounded’ the same, though, sometimes leaving me confused as to who was speaking. And when each character gets their own named chapter, that’s a problem.

The story itself was the thin part, which is often true in literary fiction, and being told by multiple characters couldn’t hide that fact. It’s so thin, simple and obvious it’s almost impossible to talk about without spoiling it for my readers. There was nothing really groundbreaking about it, but that’s fine. Literary fiction is really more about the writing and what the book says about human nature.

Which is my second problem, really. I’m not sure what this book wants to do or say. If it reveals the truth of ireland post economic crash, it does that well, but that’s not really enough to hang a narrative on. If it wants to tell us that human beings can do awful things when desperate, the news tells us that every day.

It’s a beautiful, emotionally stirring, well-written book, but I’m not sure it brings anything new to the table. And the table is already pretty full.


Provided free by the publisher through Netgalley

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