Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: A Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

A Spinning Heart is a small book, written in a series of 21 short, concise, heartbreaking and/or heartwarming vignettes about the inhabitants of an unnamed town in contemporary Ireland.  Simply put, it's 156 pages of pure literary gem.

Around 2008 Ireland had been experiencing a building boom, its young people had jobs, and the older generation was perhaps breathing a bit easier that this upcoming generation would not be forced to emigrate to find employment.  Then the world financial crisis burst upon the scene with its impact crushing not only huge banks but small villages worldwide.

Ryan takes us to one such village, and tells the story of that burst bubble on the lives of the people living there.  With raw vernacular and piercing wit, we get to see a story through the eyes of each participant, whether active or passive.  The writing is stunning, the characters are so intricately carved that it is almost impossible to believe that we can know them that well when they each get only an average of 7 pages to tell their story.

As the stories progress, the puzzle pieces begin to fit together, and a whole emerges.  It is a spell-binding literary tour-de-force.  Donal Ryan certainly deserved the Irish Book of the Year award for this one.  He has another book coming out soon: The Thing About December.  I'm already lining up for this one too.  This is an author we're going to be hearing about.  In the meantime, dust off your Irish slang dictionary, pull yourself a pint, and settle down.  This one can be read in a very pleasant evening.

Title: A Spinning Heart
Author: Donal Ryan
Publisher: Steerforth (2014), Paperback, 160 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: small town life in Ireland
Setting: unamed Irish village
Source: review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book now?  It's being considered for the 2015 Maine Reader's Choice Award.

Many thanks to Steerforth Press for providing a review copy.


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