A History of Running Away – Paula McGrath

41DUL6765KL._SY346_Three women: Jasmine, running away from her drunken mother in rural Ireland in the early 1980s; Ali, an American teenager whose mother has just died tragically, and an unnamed doctor in Dublin, torn between her career and her commitment to care for her elderly mother.  I’m not sure whether it’s a pattern becoming entrenched in writing generally, or just a fluke occurrence in many of the books I have read recently, but here we have another narrative following three different characters until it is revealed how their lives intersect. This book falls into this category, but while we might sometimes have preferences across three equal stories in this book it feels as though the author has a favourite child, and only Jasmine’s story is given sufficient room to breathe.

Jasmine’s story is rollicking, with tense and gritty scenes in London and Dublin, although there are shades of Million Dollar Baby in the boxing mentoring storyline that develops, and a coach who is a tad too pure and wise to ring true. The central female characters are the best written, but among the various people who cross their paths Aidan (a truly horrible, uniquely Catholic sanctimonious git) is particularly well drawn.  The scenes relating to the horror that is the mother and child homes that are a shame on Ireland’s history are also deftly evoked. While there are elements of this book I liked, it felt very uneven – much like an actual braid, if one of the three strands is thicker it all starts to fall apart.

A History of Running Away is published by John Murray. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney – book review

0223620_the-blood-miracles_300I picked up Lisa McInerney’s debut The Glorious Heresies a few days after it was published based on the utterly brilliant cover. Shallow I know, but there you have it. Colourful graffitied Virgin Mary, glowing praise from Kevin Barry, and a blurb setting up a dark comedy realistically set in post-crash, post-Catholic Ireland – all these things were catnip to me. After practically inhaling it and pressing it on everyone who asked me for book recommendations (and many who didn’t!) I was totally convinced of McInerney’s talent. I wasn’t a bit surprised when word-of-mouth snowballed and the justified awards started rolling in. The downside of this was I awaited her next novel with Big Expectations.

“This, like so many of Ryan Cusack’s f**k-ups, begins with ecstasy”

I didn’t realise until I got my mitts on it that The Blood Miracles is a sequel of sorts – it features some of the characters from The Glorious Heresies, but works as a standalone novel also. Rather than the multiple narratives of the first book, The Blood Miracles focuses on Ryan Cusack – a half-Corkonian half- Neapolitan drug dealer, whose sociopathic boss has decided to use him to open a new black market route between Ireland and Italy. This aspect of the story could be described as ‘Love/Hate in Cork’- although infinitely better, there is the same addictive danger that made that RTE series so popular. There are enough alliances and complex transactions to keep any reader guessing, and the action comes thick and fast.

Ryan is perfectly portrayed – he is highly intelligent, complex and somehow poetic, and there is a simple tragedy in how his circumstance have led him down the path of crime. The one light in his life, his beloved girlfriend Karine, is beginning to think he is a lost cause and he is a man on a precipice…Torn between two places, two worlds, two versions of himself, it is a pleasure to watch Ryan navigate through riotous scenes of violence, clubbing, drugs, crime and sex.  All of McInerney’s characters are skilled at spinning gold into straw – Ryan is particularly good at making a hames of things, and it makes for very good reading. This is a different beast to Heresies – the focus is tighter, and it is less funny – but it is no less worthwhile (and this is from one who went in with Big Expectations). Read this one now so you can say you have when it starts showing up on award shortlists later in the year!

The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney is published by John Murray Press on 20th April 2017. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.