... a razor-sharp snapshot of a family and a nation in trouble, in language that is vital and richly inventive ... That Hughes manages to breathe so much life into such a depressing and well-trodden period of recent Irish history is a remarkable achievement ... The subject of assisted suicide is an inspired metaphor for boom-to-bust Ireland. Later parts of the novel vividly capture the unfairness of a trial that seeks to punish the family for helping their father carry out his dying wishes and leave the world with a modicum of respect ... poignant, impressionistic prose ... Hughes gets us incredibly close to her characters with descriptions that come alive on the page ... a dynamic narrative ... The tension between Hart’s innocence and the more jaunty, authorial tone of the book is wielded skilfully by Hughes. The tragicomic style is reminiscent of Kevin Barry, the brutal truths told in a slick, offhand manner. In The Wild Laughter, there are frequent flashes of humour delivered in a style that uses exaggeration to great effect to point out the absurd (and the blindingly obvious) ... From the opening pages, the narrative is appropriately fast-paced, swerving from scene to scene...There is a maniacal quality to proceedings that makes the loss more gut-wrenching when it comes ... Hughes has interesting things to say on various cherished Irish institutions: the theatre, the Catholic Church, the idealised matriarch figure ... [The Wild Laughter] will surely see her gain further acclaim – it’s an exhilarating and moving story of an Ireland in disarray.
... [a] stirring tale of recessionary Ireland...giving Ireland’s recent history the roiling atmosphere of a fever dream ... Hughes’s writing has an austerity that befits its subject matter. But it also has a dry, dark humour that recalls figures such as Samuel Beckett, J. M. Synge and Brian Friel—all referenced throughout the book. Not only does the author’s wit enliven this bleak narrative, it stands at its thematic centre ... as anyone familiar with the Irish literary canon will know, one’s heritage becomes more powerful, inescapable, even oppressive, precisely when it is eclipsed. The Wild Laughter meditates on this dialectic of paternity, asking whether we can anchor ourselves in the past without being consumed by it. Taking its cues from a grand comedic tradition, yet asserting its originality with every line, Caoilinn Hughes’s prose answers that question resoundingly in the affirmative.
... darkly adventurous ... The differences between the Chief’s sons are distinctively drawn ... Hughes has fashioned a sturdy drama that, despite the plot twists of its last section – which centres on a court case and a betrayal – is more powerful in its first two thirds...Undertones of the Cain and Abel story rumble appropriately beneath the surface, most vividly realised in an electrifying volte face during which the sympathetic local priest, Father Shaughnessy, makes his own unexpected confession ... Hart’s embittered anguish is resplendent throughout; his role in one of the book’s key scenes makes for an outstanding passage of manipulation, misery and culpability. Even the kindly priest is not without his baser side when it comes to the final question of the wretched Hart’s choreographed redemption ... The Wild Laughter’s reckoning is as much concerned with these far-reaching effects of history as with the ongoing brutality of austerity.
Doharty makes for a lively presence on the page, although his arrogance and conceit find him walking a fine line between likably brazen and downright obnoxious ... Some of the best moments in the novel come from minor characters or those just passing briefly through the pages. In a terrific confessional scene, Hughes subverts the roles of priest and penitent with a revelation that would be worthy of a novel in itself ... The novel is occasionally marred, however, by a narrative tone so extreme in its Irishness that it begins to grate ... Such complaints, however, will be less irritating to an international audience and don’t detract from Hughes’s ability to inhabit her story fully. There’s a darkness to this novel that makes it worthy of attention.
... a taut, acerbic family drama ... Though it's too artful a work of fiction to be considered purely a polemic on the subject, The Wild Laughter does serve as a provocative brief in favor of euthanasia ... With frequent flashes of humor, 'the thing austerity couldn't touch,' Hughes skillfully captures the flickering tension between brothers separated by two years ... Hughes is both an incisive observer of contemporary life and someone who's able to penetrate its surface to explore more enduring themes. The Wild Laughter is a compact but potent novel that explores its themes of love, loyalty and sibling rivalry with keen insight.
Despite the narrower setting, however, The Wild Laughter is a deliberately epic tale ... The end is as shocking as it is inevitable. Hughes draws on inspirations from the story of Cain and Abel to John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, delivering a gut punch that both holds a mirror to Ireland’s recent past and warns of the dangers of being too in thrall to ancient history.
With its twin themes of personal and economic demise, The Wild Laughter is no cheery beach read ... It is, nonetheless, a very funny novel. There’s a spiky levity to dialogue and narration alike, with liberal sprinklings of snark, gallows humour and word play ... The ethical quandary of assisted suicide prompts a thoughtful engagement with Ireland’s shifting social mores ... The story’s elegiac quality is well served by Hughes’ distinctive prose, which blends earthy vernacular with belletristic high style. While it never quite lapses into sentimentalism, The Wild Laughter is celebratory in its own peculiar way, a sombre and sardonic paean to the 'culchies' from whom nearly all of us are descended[.]
Hughes breathes poetry into the fractured existence of each of these characters, rendering them vital even as they struggle to put a name to their deprived existence ... Sad without being maudlin, Hughes’ novel tells a moving story about one man’s slow decline to obsolescence, the ultimate indignity a father can suffer in front of his grown sons.
Hughes possesses an ear for language that is unparalleled, except maybe by Barry himself, and her second novel is a finely tuned symphony ... Hughes's dark comedy reads like a post-boom Beckett, if he'd been let run riot on a heart-scald of a potato farm in Co Roscommon ... The author has won several poetry awards and her first novel made two literary fiction shortlists. I suspect The Wild Laughter will travel even further. Dazzling doesn't even come close.
... sharply observed ... Hughes’s taut, voice-driven work balances colorful dialogue with wry commentary, which extends from the characters to the shifting values of their country away from privileging the working class, where the battle for 'right of entry from the field into the garden' has been lost, a good man like the Chief can die bankrupt, and sly Cormac does better than the rougher, kinder Hart. This solid family drama stands out by doubling as a poignant state-of-the-nation novel.
Hughes is attentive to the larger political context of her narrative and to more granular details of language and place, and her prose is vivid and unsparing ... The novel would be more successful, however, if its plot and the relationships between its characters were as vivid as its sentences. So much is left unsaid between Doharty and his family that these fraught relationships begin to feel threadbare ... A striking novel about fathers and sons in 21st-century Ireland that does not quite live up to its potential.