The Spinning Heart
by Donal Ryan
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 Winner of Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2012 “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.
I was hugely impressed by The Spinning Heart
. There will be many novels which explore the effect of the crash on the people of Ireland but I can't imagine a more original, more perceptive or more passionate work than this. Outstanding.John Boyne
[An] extraordinarily accomplished first novel… here is a new Irish writer of the very first order. Donal Ryan is the real deal. … a brilliantly realised, utterly resonant state-of-the-nation landscape … Ryan's feat is considerable. Narrative and character information is distributed among so many different voices and yet we never feel at a loss. Even the characters on the margins of the story … add compelling colour and texture. Best of all, Ryan's ear for speech is acute. … Given a novel as brilliantly realised as The Spinning Heart, I see no reason to look anywhere but the present. For Donal Ryan, the future is now.
Declan Hughes (Sunday Independent)
It is hard to believe that such beautiful but controlled writing could come from a debut author, but The Spinning Heart is just that. Each chapter is narrated by a unique voice from one member of an Irish community, building by the end of this slim novel a precise and fully formed portrait of the devastation of the financial crash on both a personal, private and public level. It is full of warmth and wit, but is also a haunting and a complex story. There’s murder, adultery, scamming and gossiping, alongside love and heartbreak, in this perceptive gem of a novel.
Emma Herdman (The Bookseller)
The most significant book to come out of Ireland since Angela’s Ashes … has the smack of authenticity. I’ve read many good books this year – new and old – but this is my book of 2012.
Guy Pringle (Newbooks magazine)
[A] beguiling debut. … This may be the work of a debut novelist, but it is one who reads plenty and knows his business. … His salty, damaged characters give voice to the anger and heartache of a town snared by Ireland’s collapse. For this, we are in his debt.
(The Sunday Times)
The portrait of a whole town facing sudden crisis naturally packs quite a punch. Even so, the most impressive aspect of this overwhelmingly impressive novel is the sheer quality of those 21 narrations. … The unambiguous announcement of a genuine and apparently fully-formed new talent.
…a first novel that's … up-to-date in its concerns but that also transcends the merely topical in its bleak, if often savagely funny, vision of a rural Ireland … There are echoes … of Patrick McCabe's stray sod country, though Tipperary-born Donal Ryan has an imaginative insight into his characters that's all his own and a furious energy to his prose that gives arrestingly vivid life to these blighted souls. … a darkly persuasive debut.
John Boland (Irish Independent)
Most beautifully written and plotted. What a writer! It is amazing to read about such grief and pain and yet end up elevated by the quality of the writing. A wonderful book.
Beautifully written… extraordinary reading… captured the essence of the sad part of what’s happening in Ireland. This book just got me by the throat. A stunning, stunning read… It comes with the highest imaginable endorsement from me... A modern literary masterpiece.
Ryan Tubridy (RTE Radio)
Donal Ryan’s precise and evocative debut … is a textured account of a community as it was during a brief moment of time. … unexpectedly tender … Ryan’s prism of life and lives is compellingly humane. … This is an exciting, relevant and believable contemporary novel about the lost and the wounded that listens to the present without discarding either the sins of the fathers or the literary legacy of the past.
Eileen Battersby (The Irish Times)
Funny, moving, technically inventive … serves as a microcosm for Ireland in the aftermath of the financial crisis. … Structurally the novel gestures to William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, while Ryan’s sensitive observations on Irish life seem responsive to the work of his compatriot Patrick McCabe. That Ryan does not look out of place in such literary company is a measure of his achievement.