"Fierce love, loyalty, and life going on in the aftermath of loss, this glorious story of four generations of Irish women gets under your skin as an immersive joy."
Raw, beautiful, and lucidly poetic Donal Ryan’s The Queen of Dirt Island leaves its imprint on body, soul and heart as it tells the stories of four generations of women who live under the same roof in rural County Tipperary from the 1980s.
These women are warriors – a magnificently unconventional, outspoken clan of Nana Mary, daughter-in-law Eileen, and granddaughter Saoirse, who’s born on the day her father and paternal grandfather are killed.
Revealing the love that binds and nourishes the women through dramas and tragedies, and told in short vignettes, it’s a haunting novel of pride and bone-deep loyalty with a pull that sneaks up on you. You start off on the outside, looking into a raucous family, feeling intrigued, surprised, trying to make sense of how they function. Then, before you know it, you feel like a faithful insider who’d defend the women to the hilt.
There’s much sadness in their lives. Eileen was disowned by her father and brother for having a child outside marriage. Saoirse too falls pregnant at a young age, but in her case there are no men judging her or casting her out. She and baby Pearl are supported by her mother and Nana, and the four of them survive on love and loyalty, even as life hurls more upset at them.
As an example of their spirit, when Eileen is betrayed by underhand legal dealings around family-owned land, her fabulous response is to assert herself as Queen of Dirt Island with due flamboyance – “Fuck this” she utters before adorning film-star glasses. Meanwhile, Saoirse later rights a wrong done to her by a would-be writer boyfriend in a satisfying stroke of self-created justice.
Honest and stirring, with perfect dialogue and observations, this shockingly good tempest of a novel explores the deepest of bonds and the stories that bind us.
|Primary Genre||Literary Fiction|