There have been a few impressive, critically acclaimed debuts from Irish authors in recent times and in The Glorious Heresies Lisa McInerney has produced a gritty, exciting debut that would not be out of place amongst the best of them.
Maureen has returned to Cork after four decades away to find herself the unlikely culprit in a murder. From here we see how the murder affects others in the town, starting with Maureen’s son Jimmy -who happens to be a fearsome gangster – who is brought in to help with the mess. These are just two in a brilliant cast of flawed characters. Ryan, a teenage drug dealer, his less than reliable father Tony, and Georgie, a prostitute make up the key characters and they are expertly crafted, vulnerable and utterly believable. These are all characters who face struggles as they try to find their place in society. They appear to be tough on the outside but their vulnerable, human side shines through. Each characters story is intertwined, building up a picture of this Irish ‘underworld’
Alongside the murder and its subsequent consequences we have a coming of age tale focussing on troubled teenager Ryan as he grows up in this dark, seedier side of Ireland. We see his fraught relationship with father Tony and the development of his relationship with girlfriend Karine. I really enjoyed the sections of the book told from Ryan’s perspective. I found the writing to be refreshing, tackling the less glamorous side of teenage love. It shows the intensity, the awkward encounters as they begin to discover their sexuality. It is very honest in its portrayal and despite the flaws of the characters it is tender, and told with empathy.
Another strength of Glorious Heresies is the use of language. McInerney has a wonderful way with words. It is edgy and foul mouthed in places and this makes it darkly comic. In addition I loved some of the descriptions: ‘he looked jointed enough to be folded away when not in use’ amongst my favourites and there were many moments when reading that made me smile (and some that had me sniggering away at my desk!)
Glorious Heresies is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is dark, honest and humorous. A gripping tale of morality, shame and finding your place.