March is Reading Ireland Month, as always hosted by Cathy at 746 books and Niall at The Fluff is Raging. I forgot that Tana French in my previous post is Irish, so I’ve actually read two books by Irish authors this month (plus another coming up for Shiny next week). Here’s the second…
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
Ryan’s third novel, All We Shall Know (reviewed here), the story of a teacher who gets pregnant by her pupil, was absolutely fabulous and made my year end best of list. That was the first book I read by this Irish author, and I was doubly keen to read his next.
From a Low and Quiet Sea is a different prospect altogether, and I had to get the verbal pyrotechnics of Ryan’s previous protagonist, Melody, out of my head. It’s equally affecting, but in a different direction. Whereas All We Shall Know, moved towards lightness, this one is far darker and contemplative.
Three men – three stories.
Farouk, a doctor, is a refugee fleeing from the war in his country with his wife and young daughter.
Farouk squinted against the sun and formed his hands into a shade on his brow and saw that the boat seemed small in the water, and single-masted, and to be made of wood, and was not at all as the man in charge had described, and he knew then why they had been taken from the shore on this launch: the traffickers could not allow the vessel to be inspected from dry land, when people still had the option of turning back, and setting out again along the road towards their homes.
Lampy is an Irish lad without much of a future, obsessed with, and heartbroken by, his ex girlfriend Chloe.
The thought of Chloe always stopped him, paralysed him. Her slender hands and blue-green eyes, her soft laugh and gentle shrug to stop him in his tracks, the pain she’d leave him in, the pain she left him in, terminal it seemed to him. He’d surely die of it.
John is older, an accountant/lobbyist who is full of regrets for the things he has done or not done in his life.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I’ll tell you them in order, one by one, and the roll of them is short, though each one might be made of a hundred parts or more.
Then Ryan converges their stories in a fourth segment which connects each man to the others in a surprising coda, having got to know the three men’s characters in detail, each beautifully written. For me, Farouk’s story shone above the other two, but his circumstances are extraordinary, whereas the other two men have a normalcy to their lives. However, Ryan’s skill in bringing them together at the end is well done. His style is spare with no words wasted but he treats his subjects with feeling and sympathy and here his skill really shows. There are moments of humour and glimpses of light, but the overall feel for me was darker, a profound feel of sadness and loss pervades the text, and the refugee crisis lingers long on one’s mind. (8.5/10)
Source: Review copy – thank you.
Donal Ryan, From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday, 2018) Hardback, 184 pages.