Summary and book reviews of The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

The Spinning Heart

A Novel

by Donal Ryan

The Spinning Heart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 160 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2014, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

In the aftermath of Ireland's financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

Donal Ryan's brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in fiction.

Hillary

YOU KNOW, I don't think Réaltín realizes the trouble she causes half the time. Every single person in work knows about her going off with George at the anniversary party, but still it's me that has to get the evil eye off all the old bitches all day every day. It's grand for Réaltín, off on her so-called special career break. That was a new one for Georgie Pervy, the chickenshit bastard. Jesus, how are all men the exact same? George leches all over everyone, well, all the young ones anyway, and no one gives it a second thought, but Réaltín has to take it to the next level and actually shag him. But Réaltín doesn't care; she just does anything she wants. I'm not saying I don't love her, I really do, she's gorgeous, and she's brilliant craic and everything, but – I'd never say this to anyone – she's going to have to cop herself on. She's going to have to decide what she&#...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The novel (though "novella" might be the more appropriate term for a book of just 160 pages) is a chorus of twenty-one first-person narratives, including Bobby's. Ryan features representatives from every sector of the community: an old woman, a little girl, a Russian immigrant, a single mother, a police officer, a schizophrenic man, and so on. The book triumphs at giving each character a distinctive voice, varying by level of diction, thickness of Irish dialect, staid or gossipy tone, and each person's particular preoccupations. The novel's context may not be immediately apparent, but it starts to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review Members Only (835 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Even as some of the voices seem extraneous, added for color but little else, Ryan has created a faithful portrait of a time and place in his debut novel, but his truest accomplishment lies in the fact that, though the individual accounts add up to a greater whole, each story stands on its own.

Booklist

Although the subject matter is overwhelmingly bleak, the prose is lyrical, and the voices are authentic. Flashes of humor and tenderness shine through as well, as the helplessness and frustration of an era is effectively captured through the lives of these small-town residents.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Altogether 21 different characters narrate 21 chapters to relate Bobby Mahon's fall from grace, with Ryan showing himself to be a virtuoso stylist as he credibly conveys the viewpoints of men and women of all ages in language distinct from one section to the next.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Disturbing and unnerving but ultimately beautiful.

The Spectator (UK)

The traditional epithet for a good first novel is 'promising'. The Spinning Heart, however, is far more than that. Instead, it's the unambiguous announcement of a genuine and apparently fully-formed new talent.

The Financial Times (UK)

A funny, moving, technically inventive first novel.... Structurally the novel gestures to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, while Ryan's sensitive observations on Irish life seem responsive to the work of his compatriot Patrick McCabe. That Ryan does not look out of place in such literary company is a measure of his achievement

The Sunday Independent (UK)

A new Irish writer of the very first order. Donal Ryan is the real deal.

The Irish Times

For all the harshness of language and the often brutal experiences, The Spinning Heart is unexpectedly tender... An exciting contemporary novel about the lost and the wounded that listens to the present without discarding either the sins of the fathers or the literary legacy of the past.

Author Blurb John Boland
A first novel that's up-to-date in its concerns but that also transcends the merely topical in its bleak, if often savagely funny, vision of a rural Ireland. Donal Ryan has an imaginative insight into his characters that's all his own and a furious energy to his prose that gives arrestingly vivid life to these blighted souls.

Author Blurb Declan Hughes
Ryan's feat is considerable...Given a novel as brilliantly realized as The Spinning Heart, I see no reason to look anywhere but the present. For Donal Ryan, the future is now.

Author Blurb Natascha McElhone
I have ordered a copy of The Spinning Heart for everyone I know who loves to read. What a treasure of a book.

Author Blurb John Boyne
I can't imagine a more original, more perceptive or more passionate work than this. Outstanding.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Irish Economy, Boom and Bust

Although the 2008 financial crisis that provides the background to Donal Ryan's The Spinning Heart had worldwide repercussions, the effects were felt particularly heavily in Ireland. The crash was preceded by a time of great prosperity in the country, such that the booming economy was given the nickname of the "Celtic Tiger," comparing it to some of the East Asian economies that took off in the late 1980s.

Foreign investment, increased partnership between employers and unions, industrial subsidies, more women joining the workforce, a low corporate tax rate, and membership in the European Union were all factors that led to an average 9.4% annual expansion in the economy between 1995 and 2000. Over the decade between the mid-nineties and ...

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