Summary and book reviews of The Black Snow by Paul Lynch

The Black Snow

by Paul Lynch

The Black Snow by Paul Lynch X
The Black Snow by Paul Lynch
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  • Published:
    May 2015, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick
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About this Book

Book Summary

The startling new novel from a brilliant young Irish novelist on the rise, who "has a sensational gift for a sentence" (Colum McCann).

In Donegal in the spring of 1945, a farmhand runs into a burning barn and does not come out alive. The farm's owner, Barnabas Kane, can only look on as his friend dies and all 43 of his cattle are destroyed in the blaze.

Following the disaster, the bull-headed and proudly self-sufficient Barnabas is forced to reach out to the community for assistance. But resentment simmers over the farmhand's death, and Barnabas and his family begin to believe their efforts at recovery are being sabotaged.

Barnabas is determined to hold firm. Yet his teenage son struggles under the weight of a terrible secret, and his wife is suffocated by the uncertainty surrounding their future. As Barnabas fights ever harder for what is rightfully his, his loved ones are drawn ever closer to a fate that should never have been theirs.

In The Black Snow, Paul Lynch takes the pastoral novel and - with the calmest of hands - tears it apart. With beautiful, haunting prose, Lynch illuminates what it means to live through crisis, and puts to the test our deepest certainties about humankind.

Excerpt
Black Snow

Barnabas bent and grabbed a rock shaped like the tooth of some old animal that had fallen there to die under the wheel of an ancient sun, and perhaps that may have been, but as he tossed it lazy towards the ditch Matthew Peoples took a step forward and cleared his throat again. Jesus Christ, boys. They took no notice of him or perhaps they didn't hear, for later in their memories what each of them heard was the dull sound of Matthew Peoples' boots thudding up the field. Not a word from the man and something comic about the way he moved with his limbs all thickly, like he was set to stumble and hit the ground at the knees, fall without his hands into the dirt face-forward, break apart into his constituent elements. But they'd never seen him move quicker, his hands balled like stones and the whites of ankles winking at them through the rise and fall of his slacks. And if Matthew Peoples had known what he ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Lynch, author of the critically well-regarded Red Sky In Morning, seems uninterested in escape – in fact he's doubling down on his Irishness by employing both a style, and a genre, that can't help but summon the spirit of the auld sod. Lynch's literary voice and cadence have very strong echoes of James Joyce (lines from Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist came regularly to my mind as I was reading). Is [its] style is too self-consciously literary for some readers? Perhaps. The Black Snow is not a novel for people who want a story told in straight-forward, anodyne language. But for readers receptive to Lynch's bent prose, the novel confers a satisfying strangeness, its tilled linguistic landscape a garden of cockeyed delights.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

Full Review (807 words).

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Media Reviews

Daily Beast
Lynch's language, which is musical, close, and alive, evokes something that seems quintessentially Irish - as if you were sitting by the bard himself, in a damp, skunky pub, on a dark rainy night, as he tells you his frightening tale.

Library Journal
The opening line of Lynch's debut novel [is] just another substantiation of the adage that the Irish can really, really write... Taut, absorbing, acerbically lyrical prose.

Publishers Weekly
Lynch's beautifully intertwined emotional and physical landscapes have a timelessness.... The story gathers momentum scene by scene.

Booklist
It bears comparison to Colum McCann's Transatlantic ... This is strong stuff by a promising young author.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Lynch evokes so many shades of guilt, pride, innocence, righteousness, and punishment that the book might help found a religion or maybe restore one's faith in a deity that could make a fine writer with one hand even if he unmade the Kanes with the other.

Author Blurb Donal Ryan, Booker-nominated author of The Spinning Heart
Some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. Vivid, unsettling and intensely enjoyable.

Author Blurb Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove
Lynch establishes himself as one of his generation's very finest novelists. The Black Snow is a dark, mesmerizing study in obsession, despair, and secrets too long held.

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Beyond the Book

Pastoral Works of Literature

The Black Snow is advertised as Paul Lynch's take on the "pastoral novel." Such a characterization presumes some familiarity with the term, though given the fairly infrequent use of the pastoral mode in contemporary fiction, it's likely some readers might be unfamiliar with precisely what that means – and even literary critics can't seem to agree, specifically, on what constitutes a "pastoral."

Theocritus Generally, a pastoral work of literature concerns itself with the rural countryside, and the people who inhabit it. The pastoral mode is well established in the Western literary tradition, having found its first full expression in the works of Theocritus, who wrote in the third century B.C.E. in ancient Greece. In his case, a pastoral ...

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