Search our site
Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Read the opening extract of the brand new Susie Steiner book before its publication on 05/04/2018

The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

The Thing About December

Family Drama   eBook Favourites   

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A powerful, moving account of rural Irish life, of a farming family, domineering parents, a ‘slow witted’ son and the effect of progress. Johnsey, the simple, child-like son, tragically inherits the farm and whether through a misunderstanding or bloody-mindedness refuses to give it up for development. Most of the community is set against him; those that do sympathise and befriend him seem to have an alternative motive. Told in twelve short chapters that cover the months of one year, it is deeply affecting, beautifully written, extraordinarily touching. Dubbed a prequel to The Spinning Heart but easily standing alone I believe Ryan to have an exceptional talent. You must read both books.

If you like Donal Ryan you might also like to read books by Jojo Moyes, Liane Moriarty and Jim Crace.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Johnsey is a simple boy, the butt of jokes on his way to and from work at the local village store, and picked on by local bullies who had given him a hard time through school. Finishing up in hospital after a brutal beating one evening, he meets Siobhan, the nurse who helps him back to health, and Mumbly Dave, who had fallen off a ladder. With these two, Johnsey finds a sort of awkward friendship for the first time. Beautifully written, this has one aching for the naivety of Johnsey.
~ The Good Book Guide


The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

'He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn't hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy's voice. But you'd have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.' While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns. Set over the course of one year of Johnsey's life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is. Donal Ryan's award-winning debut, The Spinning Heart, garnered unprecedented acclaim, and The Thing About December confirms his status as one of the best writers of his generation.


'A concise, radiant, measured and integral work... This is one of those beautiful, serious, fully living novels that make you laugh out loud... Donal Ryan is a magus of a writer. He has such magic at his disposal to tell a story... This is a novel to replenish the reader's heart and spruce the reader's soul, although it also makes one doubt we possess such signal things. It's a force of nature, high artifice and the product of a life-enhancing talent.'

- Sebastian Barry, Guardian

'Ryan writes from the rural heartland in prose that always pushes for the truth of things... His characters are large-hearted people in a small-minded world... He underplays the ironic distance and pulls our sympathies tight. And he tells a great story. His paragraphs are unnoticeably beautiful, his heart always on show, and he writes with a social accuracy that is devastating... There are ... not many who hit the sweet spot of the Irish tradition as Donal Ryan does here.' -- Anne Enright Observer

Painfully moving ... Ryan writes with absolute confidence, balancing emotion, surprise and ambiguity... In his descriptions of the conflicts between stunted young men and their domineering parents he recalls the great John McGahern ... he is indisputably carving his own terrain with these short, fierce books that strike at the heart of what it has meant to be Irish in recent times ... Ryan's work has set a benchmark to which other writers will aspire.'

- John Boyne, The Irish Times

'Clear-eyed and moving.'

- Belinda McKeon, Irish Independent

'Powerful ... Ryan is clearly committed to his subject and possesses the insight and empathy to illuminate the heart of the matter.'

- Claire Kilroy, Financial Times

About the Author

Donal Ryan was born in a village in north Tipperary, a stroll from the shores of Lough Derg. Donal wrote the first draft of The Spinning Heart in the long summer evenings of 2010, and has also completed a second novel. He lives with his wife Anne Marie and two children just outside Limerick City.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading similar books...
Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

18th September 2014


Donal Ryan

More books by Donal Ryan
Author 'Like for Like'


Black Swan Ireland an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


208 pages


Family Drama
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



I love Lovereading because of its ability to connect people that love books & unite them in a friendly, stimulating & interesting community.

Megan Olwen William

Lovereading has all the new books and also suggestions for 'similar' authors whilst waiting for your favourites new books.

Carol Peace

I recommend Lovereading because you get honest reviews on a whole range of genres-there's something for everyone. It's the only site I need.

Sian Spinney

The books for review are always great reads, brilliantly written, and introduces me to a huge variety of, established and new, authors.

Lesley Hart

You'll always find what you never knew you were looking for and you're always spoilt for choice.

Helen Jones

Because of Lovereading I have broadened my reading horizons with some really great books that I probably would never have chosen myself.

Susan Walsh

Its jam packed with fantastic titles, informative descriptions & fantastic reviews and has a vast array of great features & competitions.

Linda Rollins

Lovereading are lovely people who send me lovely books. What's not to love?

Gavin Dimmock