It's 2008, and the Celtic Tiger has left devastation in its wake. Brothers Hart and Cormac Black are waking up to a very different Ireland—one that widens the chasm between them and brings their beloved father to his knees. Facing a devastating choice that risks their livelihood, if not their lives, their biggest danger comes when there is nothing to lose.
... 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.