A confession: despite my pledge to read and review #SomeBooksofSummer-ish, I just couldn’t get on with Lisa McInerney’s Baileys Prize-winning debut novel The Glorious Heresies.
It’s not you, Lisa, it’s me.
Heresies is set in Cork city, where I am more or less from. Not only that, chunks of it take place in my side of the city. I thought that this would give me a sense of familiarity, a way in, but it didn’t. While I share a geography with these characters, theirs is not my universe – it’s a world of junkies and their dealers, prostitutes and their pimps, bad parents and their lost children. Parts are set in a neighbourhood where taxis refuse to go and the police have on occasion been set upon by what are usually described as ‘gangs of youths’. It’s not a place I would walk through day or night because, as well as being dodgy, it is heartbreakingly grim. Unfortunately, I found that taking a literary stroll through the area filled me with the same sense of bleakness.
The story draws together several characters – local criminal Jimmy, whose mother Maureen has inconveniently killed an intruder in her home; Maureen herself, who went to England as a pregnant teenager and put her son up for adoption, only for him to seek her out in later years; prostitute and drug addict Georgie, whose boyfriend has mysteriously vanished; and teenager Ryan, rebellious and bright, who turns to drug dealing after being expelled from school and thrown out of home by his violent father. I found myself reading it like an earnest social worker, despairing at their circumstances but not sure what could be done to help. The writing is vibrant, the descriptions and attention to detail faultless – just not my cup of tea.
On Wednesday (bear with me for a moment on this), we got a call that my cousin had died suddenly. It’s a huge shock to the family as he’s the first of my generation to go (we’re still considered the kids, even though we all have kids of our own). He was fit and active, a livewire who loved music and renovating houses. That night, I sat down with The Glorious Heresies, determined to plough through a chapter as I’ve been picking it up and putting it down all summer. But part of my mind was on my cousin and our family and all the memories that such events throw up. I had a sudden, admittedly fairly obvious epiphany – sod it, life is too short to keep reading books that don’t speak to me, no matter how critically acclaimed. I put it away and picked up the next thing on the must-read pile.
So I haven’t completed my very modest book challenge either in terms of time or, y’know, reading, but really, what does it matter? Read the books you want to. Ditch the rest. Use your time wisely.