In this new novel by the Man Booker-nominated author of The Spinning Heart, three men—one of whom has fled the Syrian war with his family—search for a version of home, their lives moving inexorably towards a reckoning that will draw them all together.
In 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.
Like its predecessors, the novel is concerned with the vulnerable, unspeakable and furious aspects of masculinity and is in Ryan’s distinctive colloquial style. The prose is laced with compassion and quiet emotion ... It is in the final 28 pages that the three strands, which sway in the same melancholic wind but rarely collide, are blown together in a gust of pacey, heart-wrenching action—and you realise they were destined to knot all along. The denouement, which comes in breathless bursts, is devastating. From a Low and Quiet Sea leaves you with that sense of discombobulating enlightenment that so often characterizes the quiet epiphanies of great short stories.
Ryan is an accomplished stylist; delicately and effortlessly, he renders the cadences of everyday speech. His imagery, too is succinct ... Yet for all Ryan’s beautiful writing, the novel never amounts to anything more than the sum of its parts. The final section, in which the characters come together, is intended to be a moment of tragedy and pathos, but is bathetic, trivial. I couldn’t help but feel that had Ryan allowed himself to stray further, to follow Farouk’s journey, leave Lampy and John at home, From a Low and Quiet Sea might have matched his dazzling talent.