A musician and storyteller through song for many years, Rónán Hession infuses his debut novel with tangible realness, honesty and delight. Hession takes on the familiar and mines it for its beauty and significance, as well as its whimsy. With an insightfully observant eye that’s keen on details, Hession illustrates a larger picture of what being human means and how we can confound yet ultimately support one another. Leonard and Hungry Paul is a reminder that we’re all just humans doing our best to be kind, to others and ourselves.
Dublin-based songwriter Hession has written a tender and hilarious debut. The title characters are unforgettable, and their shared amazement of the world is a gift to readers. Essential reading, especially in these times.
What a curious book this is. You don’t often get good novels about ordinary people living tranquil lives almost completely devoid of incident – no shocking discoveries, no crises, no coming to terms with a dark past ... a charming, warm-hearted celebration of all that is treasurable about everyday life ... It’s witty, but the jokes, refreshingly, are never at anyone’s expense ... this is very much a two-hander, and without the low-key dynamism of Leonard as a counterbalance, Hungry Paul’s story would go nowhere ... The leisurely pace flags further when it comes to the subplots, which involve even less remarkable relatives. Here the novel struggles to escape the fate of all books about unexciting people: they’re not exciting. That, of course, is the point. We’re meant to be appreciating the unappreciated aspects of life. But I defy any author, even one as winning as Hession, to make us savour a detailed discussion of who’ll order from the set menu and who’ll go for the a la carte ... Nevertheless, this is an appealing book thanks to Hession’s engaging style, which flits lightly across the emotional range like a harpist plucking the strings. He is often inventively funny ... These flashes of wit and poignancy make something exceptional out of what might easily have been humdrum, vindicating WH Auden’s assertion that the novelist must learn 'how to be / One after whom none think it worth to turn'.