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26 Mar 2018

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

REVIEW BY NICOLA HARWOOD

Lisa McInerney is a young Irish writer, who also runs a blog post as the Sweary Lady. Reflecting this, her first novel isn’t a lilting Irish tale, but a hard hitting story of the underbelly of Cork life: of drug dealers, prostitutes, alcoholics and cultists.

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The central character is Ryan, fifteen years old as the book opens, already a small time drug dealer, and on the cusp of taking his relationship with his girlfriend, Karine, to the next level, i.e. having sex. It is a tough world: Ryan’s mother is dead, his father an alcoholic and unemployed, and he is the oldest of, I think, 6 children. He acts tough, but he is a surprising character – clever, very musical and wanting love and to be loved: the close relationship with Karine is real, and even survives his stint in prison. The first part of the novel burns strong with story and character – the gangland boss’s mother accidentally kills someone, and all the main characters become involved to some degree in sorting the problem – usually to their ill effect. The final part of the story seems to run out of steam, but the ending, which points to some salvation for Ryan, is genuinely touching. The language is lively, sometimes overwritten, but it captures the spirit of the characters. Relationships, of family, friends and lovers, are well drawn, and the backdrop of religion remains interesting. I enjoyed it.