PositiveThe TimesIt’s that rare thing, a tender straight-ahead love story which convinces thoroughly while steering clear of the fashionably dysfunctional and transgressive relationships that dominate so much contemporary fiction ... Michael’s desperate search for love is plausibly presented, but Caitlin’s story is less convincing and skirts the border of cliché a little too closely ... O’Callaghan’s significant achievement in this fine novel is to retain our sympathy for the two lovers. Unlike in other novels on the theme of adultery, neither the writer nor his readers are tempted to judge the star-crossed lovers too harshly ... Good books remind us of other good books and in its treatment of adultery this one calls to mind thematic ancestors such as Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina and The Scarlet Letter. It also reminded me of the Alan Alda romcom Same Time, Next Year and, in its ending on the train, of the classic Brief Encounter. All that’s missing is the Rachmaninov.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Caoilinn Hughes’s highly ambitious fiction debut contains multitudes. In fact, it’s so multitudinous that it’s hard to know where to start. What is it? Bildungsroman? Picaresque? Novel of ideas? State of the nation critique? Philosophical treatise? Cultural literacy primer? In truth, it’s all of these and then some; the quintessential \'baggy monster\' of a novel, even at a modest yet action-packed 337 pages ... Less a carefully plotted novel, more a series of loosely connected escapades, it has faint echoes of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which also features rococo plot variations, singular protagonists and skulduggery in the art world ... Poet-novelists have a tendency to overelaborate linguistically and, for all the swing and flow of Hughes’s bravura prose, there are passages which are overwritten to the point of self-parody ... Still, I predict that most readers are going to love her.\
RaveThe Times (UK)Dan Sheehan’s debut novel is ambitious, rambunctious and extremely accomplished. Ambitious, in so far as it addresses daunting and complex issues; rambunctious, in its wild, road-trippy exuberance; and accomplished because it combines these elements with style, wit and compassion. At a time when contemporary fiction is being dominated more and more by arid and self-indulgent experimentalism, it’s refreshing to discover a writer who is holding true to the solid virtues of story, character and voice ... the writer has an acute sense of local colour ... time-shifting and dual narrative can be confusing for the reader but here the effects are seamlessly interwoven. The prose style, full of vibrant wise-cracking energy, can turn on a dime into a controlled lyricism befitting serious subjects such as PTSD, mental health and the nature of masculinity, toxic or otherwise ... Too many recent novels have wallowed in nostalgie de la boue without recourse to our better angels. Restless Souls is an honourable exception, and all the more welcome for it.