The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Here is an outline of my thought processes as I read The Glorious Heresies:

What have we got here? A book set inside the head of an angst-ridden Irish teenager who’s about to have sex for the first time? It’s all going to go wrong, isn’t it? He’s going to be kicked out of school and enter a world of unrelenting darkness. Hang on, it’s switched. Gangster has to clean up after newly restored mother hits intruder over the head with a Holy Stone. Oh and back to boy. His dad. Here’s Georgie, she’s a prostitute. Interconnected lives. Oh, that’s clever, I see what she’s done there. Drugs, lots of drugs. No, no, stop doing that! It’s all going to go horribly wrong! Make the other decision, MAKE THE OTHER DECISION! Yes! Go, Maureen, make a difference! Oh, that’s sad. Oh, Ryan.

The Glorious Heresies is, well, glorious. It’s six years inside the interconnected lives of various members of the underclass of Cork city. There’s young Ryan, whose mother drove herself into the ditch and whose father, Tony, is a fairly useless drunk just about managing to keep his six children getting up and going to school. Tony used to know Jimmy Phelan, the local hard man kingpin, who’s just back from London after finding his long lost mother, who missed being a graduate of the Magdalene Laundry school of unwed motherhood by a hair’s breadth but still lost her baby. Maureen doesn’t want to be back, and she definitely doesn’t want to be living in a flat in a house that used to be a brothel along with a ghost.

McInerney throws in religion, drugs, bright windows of hope and the crushing aftermath of the economic crash. Is there any redemption? You’ll have to read it and find out.

At its best, the writing carries you along in a kaleidoscope of energy, balancing its grittiness with humour and tenderness and an understanding of the inner turmoils of family and love and hopelessness and hope common to all of the characters. The dialogue has moments of clunkiness and the focus came apart a bit in the final stretches, but it’s a cracking read for all that. Tarantino via Roddy Doyle. Ireland coming apart and deciding which bits of itself to leave behind as it tumbles into the future. A touch of the fin de siecle. Grand, so.

the glorious heresies



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