Monday, September 5, 2022

The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan Review

The baby girl, born 2 weeks early, hasn't even been named when her father tragically dies 3 days after her birth. The novel is about the lives and relationships of the Aylward women left behind from this death: his mother Mary, his widow Eileen and his daughter Saoirse. These 3 generations of women live a slightly unconventional life filled with laughter, arguments, disappointments, tragedy, joy, loyalties and betrayals

I was hesitant to pick this up, purely because the other Donal Ryan books have left me in a blubbering mess on completion and I wasn't sure I wanted that emotional ruin right now! The end of the first chapter left me open mouthed in shock, but while the rest of the book had me tearing up, it's definitely on the lighter side.

The story isn't plot driven nor is it overly character driven. At least, not from the point of view of seeing the characters deepest hidden thoughts and feelings. Instead, it's driven by the characters and their relationships. It's like looking in the window at this family and being enthralled by what you see. Donal nails the characterisation of these rural folk: turns of phrase, the typical family fall outs, their hopes and disappointments for each other, the types of characters that are friends and neighbours. This, along with Donal's lyrical prose, made me love the story and these women. It feels almost timeless, I wasn't sure when this was set until 15% through the book and even when you do find out, it remains this way bar the mention of certain items or events. 

The chapters are short and it spans about 40 odd years, things never go super in depth. Because it's so wide spanning, it could feel like it's rambling but everything pulls together near the end. This style won't be for everyone but I enjoyed these vignettes. It was enough for me to fall in love with the Aylward women and those lucky enough to orbit their odd coven

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