RaveThe Irish TimesOf the many different emotions a novel can inspire in its readers, anger is rarely one of them, but I’d challenge anyone to come away from You Will Be Safe Here in a state of calm. It tells a story so powerful and upsetting that it’s a useful reminder of how fiction can illuminate the indignities visited upon those the world has mistreated and then forgotten ... Where many novels run out of steam as they approach the end, You Will Be Safe Here grows more engaging with each chapter ... This is a penetrating study of politics and history, but it’s also about cruelty, selfishness and destiny ... You Will Be Safe Here is a very fine novel ... It’s the work of someone who understands his subject and employs calm, efficient prose to leave the reader feeling stunned by the cruelty and barbarism human beings routinely show each other.
PositiveThe Irish Times... quiet, subtle and deeply moving ... O’Callaghan imbues his characters with dignity and authenticity ... Throughout, O’Callaghan writes with a poet’s attention to language ... Despite the title, Coney Island itself does not play a great role in the book. But it’s out there, beyond the windows of their hotel room, an almost mythological place that, like the central couple, is now a bit run down and past its prime, no longer the bright, vibrant wonderland of decades before. It’s a cry back to lost decades, a place that summons images of happiness, mischief and carefree youth, the very things that Michael and Caitlin feel are lost to them but can be rediscovered, briefly, in these stolen afternoons ... This is a fine novel, with elegance and wisdom lying beneath an unpretentious surface and O’Callaghan, a gifted writer, has managed to do that most difficult of things: take a quiet, almost everyday story, and transform it into a thing of beauty.
MixedThe Irish TimesHemon writes with the confidence and fluidity that make a great storyteller, so it’s something of a shame that the overall collection feels fragmented, with sections that leap dramatically off the page and others that lie flat ... the flaws lie in the sections that feel surplus to the book’s requirements. A lengthy piece on his childhood interest in chess feels like filler and is neither particularly interesting nor engaging, certainly not when placed between the turbulent times described in the earlier chapters and the tragedy that lies, most unexpectedly, in the closing pages. (Its placement in the book is, in fact, utterly confusing) ... not a rage-fuelled book, it is simply a disjointed one, with individual pieces that might very likely have worked well in their original journalistic publications but which hang uncomfortably together in book form and ultimately lack the depth or profundity that the author’s reputation would lead readers to expect.
RaveThe Irish TimesHaving achieved so much success, Porter’s second book has a weight of expectation behind it, but he hasn’t disappointed, for Lanny is a fine follow-up, perhaps more accessible than his first while still embracing his unique writing style ... After reading Lanny, I did something I’ve never done before: I read it again. I felt that I would both understand and appreciate it better the second time around and was keen to study how the author managed to lure me in, even spellbind me, with such a magical and singular story ... I suspect Lanny will be a novel I will return to again, simply to absorb the strangeness of the story, the cleverness of the structure, the authenticity of the dialogue and the ethereal mystery that surrounds the book’s titular character. For those who are put off by experimental fiction, and I confess to being one, this is a novel to shatter your prejudices, for Max Porter understands that even the most complex idea must have a decipherable meaning if it is to be of any worth to a reader.
RaveThe Irish Times\"There are some writers who never let you down... Tessa Hadley is one such writer ... Hadley sets the scene for a thoughtful rumination on the different types of attachments we form in life, and in the early chapters this is both contemplative and astute, but then she turns everything on its head halfway through with a plot twist that feels as unexpected as it does natural ... [Hadley] has a keen psychological insight that allows her to create multifaceted characters that remain with the reader long after the story has come to an end. It’s no surprise, then, that Late in the Day is a powerful addition to her already distinguished body of work. Really, a rather brilliant novel.\
RaveThe Irish TimesRather than writing a diatribe against the likes of Farage or Johnson, [Coe] uses the novel to try to understand why people voted as they did and the historic prejudices that led to such an unexpected result ...Readers of Coe’s earlier books The Rotter’s Club and The Closed Circle will be pleased to be reintroduced to Benjamin Trotter ... Each character is so credible and so vile that the question is not why it took England so long to leave the EU, but why the EU didn’t kick them out years ago. ... Coe is a deft comic writer, probably Britain’s finest, and there are dozens of laughs along the way ... Millions of words have been and will be written on Brexit but few will get to the heart of why it is happening as incisively as Middle England.
Andrew Michael Hurley
PositiveThe Irish TimesHurley has a good ear for mystery, turning the woods into a magical but dangerous place ... One gets the sense that the deeper one sinks into the basin of the land the more possibility there is of witchcraft and enchantment, an awareness that provokes excitement and fear in equal parts ... if Hurley could improve on anything it would be in making his central character a little more flesh and blood. He aims for reticence, an introversion that is unsettled by finding himself in a place where childhood memories and his new experiences as a father intersect, but occasionally one longs for him to throw his arms in the air, to raise his voice, to run into the deepest part of the valley and scream until his lungs hurt. Silence can be good in a novel but occasionally one needs the drama of the overturned table, the slapped face or the unexpected act of madness. But it would be ungenerous to suggest that such restraint damages the book unduly for Hurley is a fine writer, with concerns that place him a little to the left of the literary mainstream, a remove that makes him extremely interesting.
Hiro Arikawa, Trans. by Philip Gabriel
RaveThe Irish Times\"In the wrong hands, a story like this could be little more than an entertaining curiosity, but Arikawa has a lightness of touch in her writing that elevates it to a tale about loyalty and friendship, eschewing sentimentality while speaking to our basic human need for companionship ... it provides a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and traditions, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that it’s about a man and a cat. Like Of Mice and Men or The Kite Runner, Arikawa’s central concern is friendship and the things we’ll do for the people, or animals, that we love.\
PositiveThe Irish TimesMuch of this material is shocking and controversial and could easily make a non-fiction book in itself ... a stimulating read ... as erudite as it enjoyable.
RaveThe GuardianIn his fourth novel, Donal Ryan has not only bounded over a wall into new territory, but built himself a castle there ... The three stories are equally involving but it is only when the final section arrives that they are drawn together in the most heartbreaking manner. There are revelations to be found in the closing pages, and connections between characters that took me by surprise—making me utter an expletive aloud in Dublin airport while reading ... This is a superb novel, from a writer building a body of work the equal of any today. His books are filled with love and righteous anger, most of which lurks darkly beneath the surface ready to explode like an ill-judged comment at a family gathering.
Edouard Louis, Trans. Lorin Stein
PositiveThe Irish Times\"Louis veers between deep emotion and a forensic study of the night in question. It’s as if he is using his writing to understand whether, in fact, he’s culpable in some way and exactly how the encounter changed from consensual sex to rape. It makes for a heartbreaking read ... I’m not entirely sure why Louis chooses to use the term [\'novel], as it diminishes, for me, the impact of the work. I want to believe that every word on the page is true, because, if they’re not, then I feel manipulated as a reader ... Issues of literary identity aside, I find myself captivated by Édouard Louis’s books and his raw honesty.\
RaveThe Irish TimesOccasionally in the very best fiction, a line that at first glance appears insignificant leaps from the page, offering a deep insight into a character, and one such occurs here ... There are only a small number of writers whose work will endure long after they are gone but William Trevor, who should have become our fifth Nobel Laureate, is unquestionably one of those.
RaveThe GuardianThere’s an irony to the title of Roddy Doyle’s 11th novel, in that the book eschews most of his trademark humour and the laughs fall thin on the ground. His darkest and perhaps finest work since The Woman Who Walked Into Doors 20 years ago, Smile combines tropes from the various strands of Doyle’s career – childhood memories from the Barrytown trilogy, middle-aged regrets from The Guts and Bullfighting, pub conversations from Two Pints – and merges them into a unique novel, one that is terribly moving and even, at times, distressing, while saving its greatest surprise until the end ... While Doyle has never been a particularly experimental writer, he takes great risks with his story as the novel progresses. To say more would be to spoil the truly unexpected climax that Smile reaches, but suffice to say that to call this the least Roddyesque of Doyle’s work would be an understatement. There is a brave and complex ending to the novel, one that will leave readers astonished.
PositiveThe Guardian50 pages into Stephen Florida I felt as though I was being pinned to a wall – or rather a mat – by a teenage boy intent on telling me every detail of his exercise routine, about the importance of warm-ups, protein and sleep and the reason he keeps his hair in a military buzz cut. Eventually, though, I gave in, seduced by his unrelenting determination, despite the fact that he was holding me down and twisting my arm into places nature did not want it to go … Its brutal intensity makes it a difficult read at times, but there’s no denying how deeply Stephen’s voice sinks into the mind ... His writing is powerful and magnetic, with a quality that suggests it has been worked over to strip it bare of ornamentation but still leave it with a rare beauty that the greatest sportspeople, in a ring, on a court or on a pitch, can achieve.