RaveThe Independent (IRE)Can the Irish border be described as a ‘thin place’? Never have I read such an eloquent description for the omnipresent border in our psyche ... Readers will draw their own meaning from Ní Dochartaigh’s words, and she allows space for them to ponder ... This debut is not a memoir in the traditional sense; nor is it simply a polemic about the sectarian violence that tore through the author’s childhood in Derry; instead, it combines both of these elements under the insistent gaze of the poet-writer who is always keen to draw our attention to nature ... Readers may be surprised at the depths that Thin Places explores. Do not mistake its appreciation of the natural world for anything twee or solely comforting ... This is not for the faint-hearted ... Ní Dochartaigh’s writing is generous and she leaves little for the reader to surmise in those dark days she describes in startling detail ... The darkness in her subject matter lends itself to the light, however. The natural world at large is a balm for her ... It might sound incongruous to write about the beauty of the whooper swan and the enduring effect of Troubles in the same paragraph, but Ní Dochartaigh’s manages it ... This is a book full of hope found in dark places and it confronts some of the realities of the Irish border and the enduring effect it has on our lives.
RaveThe IndependentMortality is clearly weighing heavily on the actor’s mind in this honest and humble second book. His first memoir, Pictures In My Head,was published in 1994. Though some of the same anecdotes crop up in Walking With Ghosts, their telling has been reworked and the 26-year gap between the two has sharpened Byrne’s perception and articulation. There is a general sense that he is arranging, probing and nostalgically gazing at past memories, deriving meaning and learning to accept his own mortality ... Perhaps Byrne’s is a talent borne of decades spent listening, watching, contemplating and emulating \'the theatre of the street\', as he refers to it, coupled with an impressive ability to recall phrases years and years after they were spoken. The result is a memoir that pulses with nostalgia and an honesty palpable from the opening pages ... Byrne arrives at a truth greater than an honest and sensitive memoir; he verges on a profoundly touching articulation of our short time on earth, time that will make of each of us nothing more or less than a ghost.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Yes, you’re in for a treat ... There are few voices that we can reliably read widely these days, but I would read Laing writing about proverbial paint drying (the collection is in fact quite paint-heavy), just as soon as I would read her write about the Grenfell Tower fire, The Fire This Time, or a refugee’s experience in England, The Abandoned Person’s Tale, all of which are included in Funny Weather ... Laing’s knowledge of her subjects is encyclopaedic, her awe is infectious, and her critical eye is reminiscent of the critic and author James Wood ... The articles included from the column she wrote for frieze magazine are often politically charged, deepened by their fresh artistic comparisons and laced with philosophical musings. The collection also includes the most thoughtful, well-researched and concise description of contemporary art that I have read, and I would urge everyone to read Free if you want it: British Conceptual Art if you think that contemporary art is distinctly Not Your Thing ... With a grace and benevolence similar to Sinéad Gleeson, she pens portraits of artists, writers and singers from the latter half of the 20th century which are rich in detail, suffused in empathy and astute in their socio-political contextualisation. To be drawn in a Laingish light is to be considered searchingly but always with a whole heart ... Her sensitivity to colour, coupled by her ever sharpening vocabulary leaves the reader scrambling to search for the artwork in question ... Her book reviews are, unsurprisingly, radiant ... gives the reader a tangible sense of the sprawling garden of work which Laing has planted. She is to the art world what David Attenborough is to nature: a worthy guide with both a macro and micro vision, fluent in her chosen tongue and always full of empathy and awe.