The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

gloriousThis novel illustrates why social mobility is no substitute for addressing inequality. Ryan at 15 is bright, attractive, sensitive. He plays the piano. He even speaks Italian! But these attributes aren’t enough for him to escape the impoverished world he was born into. He’s already started dealing and after his feeble father gets mixed up in a murder, Ryan is also drawn into the web.

The novel is set in Cork, but this isn’t the Cork of the tourist brochures or the international business parks. The characters in this book live mostly in a confined world, where people like them frequent the same few streets, where the only other point of reference is a London diaspora of more people like them. Ryan has a glimpse of a brighter world, of nightclubs and festivals and a ‘normal’ life with his girlfriend but the two worlds are increasingly in conflict.

This book gallops along, full of rich earthy language and ideas turning somersaults. The story plays on the archetypal Irish themes and subverts them. Religion is here but not the religion of the Catholic church. It is gone, though a mother once forced to give up her son is fighting its ghost. Addiction is rife, repentance court ordered.

There are some issues with the structure. I felt there were some themes which are picked up and not fully developed and a couple of things left unresolved. Conversely, the author breaks up the end of the book to go back and spell out what you’d already surmised. Thinking we’d finished, I then had to re-engage as she picked up the story for one final, pivotal scene.

But overall I loved it. It’s so rare in fiction to see working-class characters (or non-working class) from their own point of view, rather than through the prism of a detective. I found myself thinking long after I’d finished it about freedom and injustice and how self-destructive behaviour is sometimes the only power you have. And it’s funny. If you like your humour bleak and savage.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

  1. I keep meaning to read this one – it’s the kind of black humour (which the Irish do so well) that appeals to me. Thank you for linking up and maybe this will influence my choice for Ireland…

    Like

  2. […] in my recent reading, including three different takes on the aftermath of the economic crisis. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney is about a young man growing up in Cork’s gang culture, Anne Enright’s The […]

    Like

  3. […] riotous description of the less touristy side of Cork The Glorious Heresies: one by Kate Vane and one by myself. Finland can also boast two reviews, both for historical novels: White Hunger by […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s