Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Reading- Red Sky in Morning, The Herbalist, The Captain's Table

The heatwave is still here even if it is a bit overcast. Step outside and the air is warm and fuggy and everyone says that we need a bit of rain to clear the air. We love to discuss the weather and a prolonged summer heatwave and a real drought has caused much material for discussion. What the weather doesn't encourage is indoor keyboard tapping. The review rate has dwindled to very low as the appeal of lolling in the garden instead has risen to very high. Despite this we all like to have recommendations of what to read as we lie in the sun so here are my three books for backgarden/ beach/ poolside reading.


Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch caused much excitement on publication. And not without cause. It is a thoughtful and subtle piece of work with a moving and tragic close. The tale of Coll Coyle and his treatment at the hand of his landlord's son is one that escalates out of control. A small act leads to a large event and leads to his journey away from his wife and family in Donegal to America, to join those who chipped away at the rocks to lay the railway lines. But Coll can never escape his original act and when we find what this was it makes the tale all the more tragic.

This is Paul Lynch's first novel. A journalist and former film critic for the Sunday Tribune, the novel has a cinematic and reportage feel to it as the reader is taken through Coll's experience. There is no excess language here- it is roughly hewn and gets straight to the core of the story. It is one that lingers in your mind after the reading as you dwell on the escalation of events that occurred and the impact of real events on real people at that time.

Red Sky in Morning is published by Quercus Books http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/


The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce has gone straight into the Irish Bestseller Charts after publication in early June. Another first novel this story is one that gives the reader a real feel for small town gossip in 1930s rural Ireland. Opening with the arrival in the town of the herbalist to sell his wares in the market place, his effect on the womenfolk, in particular one young girl Emily, will cause disruption and heartache, suspicion and spite. Accepting an unwanted pregnancy for one is balanced with loss of a child and inability to conceive again for another. The attitudes of a small town towards a woman who lives her life as she wishes rather than following the conventional rules of society make her an outsider. In fact, despite the herbalist being the catalyst for this story it is the women whom we are following and the ways that they make life so awkward for each other.

Niamh Boyce won the 2012 Hennessy XO Award for Irish Writing and her debut here is a confident piece of writing telling an unusual and interesting tale. The characters are strong and believable set in a period of Irish history that was restricting and claustrophobic for women.

The Herbalist is published by Penguin Ireland http://www.penguin.ie/


Muriel Bolger's new book The Captain's Table is a great story! I wasn't sure to start with; set on a cruise ship- is this really my cup of tea? But despite my initial reservations I raced through this fun lighthearted story of Jenny who has left her well-known Irish husband who is in the early days of  a scandal to escape for a couple of weeks on a Mediterranean cruise. Gathering together with other solo passengers and a few other's, one being a colourful newly-wed gay couple we are initiated into the daily goings on of a cruise ship. The Captain is a charmer but has a troubled wife at home. He explains the staff manner of bumping hips and knocking elbows to greet passengers to ensure they do not get any germs that would affect the smooth running of the ship. I spent several days sharing this nugget of interesting information with friends!

The passengers all have their own interesting stories and the well rounded characters each quickly emerge to be followed as they quickly make friends and reveal their own reason for taking a cruise, which seems to be shared much more quickly on the decks of the ship with it's feeling that fellow passengers may never be encountered again. The author is a huge fan of cruises and her knowledge and experience comes through in the detail and credibility of the story. Great fun, good reading and a great choice for summer reading.  

The Captain's Table is published by Hachette Ireland https://www.hachette.ie/ 

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