Summary and book reviews of The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen

The Dazzling Truth

A Novel

by Helen Cullen

The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen X
The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Aug 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Nichole Brazelton
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About this Book

Book Summary

One Irish family. Three decades. One dazzling story.

In the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone. As their relationship progresses, marriage and motherhood come in quick succession, but for Maeve, with the joy of children also comes the struggle to hold on to the truest parts of herself.

Decades later, on a small Irish island, the Moone family are poised for celebration but instead are struck by tragedy. Each family member must find solace in their own separate way, until one dazzling truth brings them back together. But as the Moone family confront the past, they also journey toward a future that none of them could have predicted. Except perhaps Maeve herself.

Paperback original

Inis Óg: 2005

Murtagh had woken that morning, once again, to an empty bed; the sheets were cool and unruffled on Maeve’s side. He had expected to find her sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in her hound’s-tooth shawl, pale and thin in the darkness before dawn, a tangle of blue-black hair swept across her high forehead like a crow’s wet wing, her long, matted curls secured in a knot at the nape of her neck with one of her red pencils. He had anticipated how she would start when he appeared in the doorway. How he would ignore, as he always did, the few moments it would take for her dove-grey eyes to turn their focus outward. For the ghosts to leave her in his presence. The kettle would hiss and spit on the stove as he stood behind her wicker chair and rubbed warmth back into her arms, his voice jolly as he gently scolded her for lack of sleep and feigned nonchalance as to its cause.

But Maeve wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table.

Nor was she meditating on ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Cullen makes the decision to begin the novel in the present with a tragedy that seems like it should be an ending, followed by flashbacks of events leading up to it. Without the burden of wondering how the story will end, the reader is able to reflect on both the subtle and obvious progressions of mental illness and on the various ways people choose to protect themselves from the pain of watching a loved one struggle. Using prose that is at once graceful and unassuming, Cullen describes physical landscapes as poetically as she does the internal landscapes of her characters. Readers will find themselves falling in love with the Irish seaside, the moody skies and the stony pathways alongside the beautiful but tragic lives of Maeve, Murtagh and their four very different children...continued

Full Review Members Only (702 words).

(Reviewed by Nichole Brazelton).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cullen’s lyrical prose drives the immersive and heart-wrenching narrative. This complex study of depression and its impact on family dynamics will lure readers.

Booklist
With a group of well-crafted, intriguing characters, [Cullen] realistically portrays a tight-knit group of people trying to grow up and grow old under the shadow of a tragedy they can never understand. Readers will enjoy experiencing a slice of life in this small Irish community, and embrace the very interesting characters who live there.

Library Journal (starred review)
Love is here in spades... clear a weekend for this gorgeous read.

Author Blurb Maggie Smith, award-winning author of Good Bones and Keep Moving
Absolute poetry and a love letter to family and to the arts. The empathy in this book is beautiful.

Author Blurb Anne Youngson, author of Meet Me at the Museum
A perfect combination of deeply felt tragedy with great hopefulness.

Author Blurb Ali Land, bestselling author of Good Me, Bad Me
An extremely moving read. Helen Cullen handles the complexities of love, grief, family life and mental illness with sensitivity and depth. A truly gorgeous novel.

Author Blurb Emma Flint, author of Little Deaths
I devoured this, falling in love with the setting and with every character—and when I reached the end, I wept because it is just glorious. The Dazzling Truth is a sweeping family saga and at the same time, a close-up on the everyday beautiful details that make up love.

Author Blurb Caoilinn Hughes, author of Orchid and The Wasp and The Wild Laughter
Cullen’s beautifully observed novel The Dazzling Truth charts a family across 37 years, living through a tragedy on a remote island; portraying mental health and the fall-out around it with enormous humanity and integrity. Tonally reminiscent of recent Colm Tóibín.

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Beyond the Book

Inis Meáin (Inishmaan)

Inishmaan Harbour Inis Óg, the island home of the Moone family in The Dazzling Truth, might be a fictional location, but exploring the real small coastal islands of Ireland can offer an idea of what it would be like to live where the characters do. Well-known examples include the Aran Islands, three limestone islands known individually as Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) and Inis Oírr (Inisheer). With their total population hovering at around one thousand, the islands are sparsely inhabited by humans but boast a wide variety of flora and fauna.

The least populated of the Islands, and likely the closest representation of the fictional Inis Óg, is Inis Meáin, which has around 200 residents. Residents still ...

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