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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What goes around, comes around
The Spinning Heart is a metal heart, set in the gate of Frank Mahon's house. It spins round and round in the wind, never going anywhere.

The novel opens with a first person narrative from Bobby Mahon. Bobby was a builder's foreman, working for his old friend Pokey Burke. As is well documented, the Irish economy benefited enormously from a property bubble in the...
Published 12 months ago by MisterHobgoblin

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting !
Loved Frank Mahon's character when he died he apparently said " What am i supposed to do haunt me own house " as he waited to be buried very modern but with all the old irish sentiment about religion and tradition . As a man he writes very well from a women's point of view as familiarity breeds contempt which we all know soon rears it's ugly head in relationships...
Published 3 months ago by Mavee


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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What goes around, comes around, 28 July 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
The Spinning Heart is a metal heart, set in the gate of Frank Mahon's house. It spins round and round in the wind, never going anywhere.

The novel opens with a first person narrative from Bobby Mahon. Bobby was a builder's foreman, working for his old friend Pokey Burke. As is well documented, the Irish economy benefited enormously from a property bubble in the 1990s-2000s and some people got very rich, very quickly. But by the time we meet Bobby, the bubble has burst; the Celtic Tiger has lost its roar. Pokey has scarpered, leaving his workmen and his investors in deep trouble. Bobby's immediate financial problems would be eased greatly if his father would only die and leave Bobby his land whilst it still had some small amount of value. But Frank seems to get healthier by the minute and Bobby sits watching the price of land trickling away to nothing.

After a few pages, the narrative baton passes on to Josie, and then on through a series of 21 different narrators. At first it seems as though each narrator is just giving a different perspective on the same predicament. But as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that each narrative adds to the detail of a quite distinct plot. But given the individual perspectives, it is interesting to sometimes see the same events told through very different lenses. The reader's perceptions of people need to be constantly readjusted.

Telling a story with 21 points of view, none of which is revisited, is an immense feat of skill. That the narratives manage to convince, written in differing voices and dialects that sound authentic and avoid sounding samey, is a work of genius. Donal Ryan avoids the temptation to give characters tics or quirks and this can make the reader want to zip back and check previous passages just to confirm who is who. But at the same time, Ryan uses enough signposts to guide an alert reader around the narrative.

The novel is short, but there's a lot in it and it isn't a terribly quick read. The voices do slow the reader down - and that's necessary if the reader isn't going to miss out on vital detail. There are sub-plots and scheming, most of which make sense. There is an excellent insight into the petty rivalries and jealousies between smalltown Ireland and "the boondocks". The novel is set in Tipperary, but it could just as easily be in Cavan, or Louth, or Offally or Carlow. The shattered dreams are found all over Ireland and these responses to the slump will stand to tell future generations just how bad it got.

The Spinning Heart is a novel that has humanity and warmth amongst the heartbreak. It is compelling reading and has a social importance. And like the spinning heart of the title, it shows that what goes around, comes around.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A winner, 31 July 2013
This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Hardcover)
This book fluidly told me its story and hooked me to find out what happens, and not to just to Bobby but all of the 21 main characters plus all of their family and friends - it made me care about them all. I now want to know what happens next; but their lives are, like ours, as the author signals, as yet unwritten but hungry for love. I loved the 'Teapot Taliban' and other evocative expressions, clearly a skilled Irish writer writing about experiences germane to everybody, but from an Irish perspective and reminded me a little of Frank McCourt's and Malachy McCourt's phrasing. It's quite clear to me, having read and enjoyed it 4 times it's that good, that The Spinning Heart is an outstanding book (hence on Waterstones Books of the Year list, the Irish Book Awards Overall Winner of Book of the Year 2012, the Sunday Independent Best Newcomer of the Year Award for 2012, as well as on Man-Booker Shortlist 2013), in which all of the complexities have been laid bare, distilled and made simple to ponder and digest by this skilful writer in which he uses internal voicing. It reminds me of [an internal] Under Milk Wood, which I got out and re-read and also listened to again (Damn, don't we miss Richard Burton!). I would love to hear The Spinning Heart as a play done in a similar way to Under Milk Wood, although with 21 characters (James Nesbitt would make a great Bobby don't you think) instead of Thomas's 38. I put this solidly as a runner for the Man Booker short list as it met my criteria of craving to re-read it, immediately.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Superb, 15 Mar 2014
By 
L. Davidson (Belfast, N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Paperback)
I bought this excellent novel after reading the author's second book "The Thing About December" first and thoroughly enjoying it. Paradoxically the events of "The Spinning Heart" are set about 10 years after those of "The Thing About December" . "The Spinning Heart" is set in a village in rural Ireland just after the "Celtic Tiger" boom years came to a crashing halt. An important construction employer has gone bust and fled the country leaving behind him a mess; unfinished houses, unemployed workers, penury and mental illness. A gripping plot unfolds as the book devotes a chapter each to a series of characters from the village who tell their own ,often moving , stories . These fascinating accounts all combine to tell a tale of loneliness, violence, frustration and desperation and provide a brilliant snapshot of life in 21st Century Ireland. The author has a great talent for characterisation and all of the characters in this novel, despite often only having a few pages to tell their stories ,are all three dimensional and as large as life, baring their souls for the reader. I have given 5 stars to both of Donal Ryan's novels in my Amazon reviews and I really hope he continues to write such absorbing, page turning , sparkling books in future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful polyphonic achievement, 26 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
OK, how good is this opening paragraph?

"My father still lives back in the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn't yet missed a day of letting me down. He smiles at me; that terrible smile. He knows I'm coming to check is he dead. He knows I know he knows. He laughs his crooked laugh. I ask is he okay for everything and he only laughs. We look at each other for a while and when I can no longer stand the stench of him, I go away. Good luck, I say, I'll see you tomorrow. You will, he says back. I know I will."

It does what every good opening paragraph should do, which is to get you interested and to introduce something central to the novel. It beautifully sets up the relationship between Bobby and his father, an unhappy, antagonistic relationship which we come to understand more deeply as the novel progresses.

More broadly, this is a novel about the effects of the financial crisis on a small town in the Irish countryside, and it's told through a wide range of voices - 21 different narrators in total, each one getting just one chapter to state his or her point of view.

Yes, that's a lot of narrators! At first I began to despair at all the jumping around, because it felt as if none of the stories would be adequately resolved. But as the action progressed, it became clear that a story was indeed being told, and being told in a very effective way, because we hear the same information from different people, giving us a very rounded view of events.

The financial crisis hit Ireland hard, and it's very much at the forefront of this novel, with builders going bankrupt, workers being left with no social security payments, people living in half-built housing estates, immigrants who came in the good times being left adrift with no work, locals planning to emigrate in search of better opportunities.

One of the most difficult things about multiple narrators is making each character have a distinctive voice. Ryan achieves this, creating the odd effect of inhabiting multiple realities in quick succession. Here's Lily, a local prostitute:

"Yerra what about it, sure wasn't I at least the author of my own tale? And if you can say that as you depart this world, you can say a lot."

And here's Vasya, an immigrant from Khakassia, on the next page:

"The man's wife scolded him for bringing me. She thought I couldn't understand. She was right and wrong: I didn't know the words, just their meaning."

The rhythms are completely different, and completely authentic to the speech patterns of each character. The narration is always conversational, as if the characters are speaking to us directly, and it's often hilarious. Here's Rory, for example, responding to the priest telling him to do what Jesus would have done:

"How would I know what Jesus would have done? That fella was a mass of contradictions as far as I can see. One minute he says to turn the other cheek, the next minute he's having a big strop and kicking over lads' market stalls."

I'm quoting more than usual from the book, because it's the voices that really make it a success. The novel is by turns funny and sad, and brilliantly evokes the life of a whole town, which is a much more difficult thing to do than evoking the life of an individual person. The constant changes of narrator may put you off at first, but it's worth sticking with it to see how it all comes together. I can see why it made the Booker longlist and won the Guardian First Book Award.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Donal Ryan masterpiece, 28 April 2014
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
Just a fantastic read very well woven together - I bought a copy for a friend after i had read it and she loved it too. Donal Ryan does the local and colloquial very well and Irish readers would definitely love this or his second book which is very different but equally excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing, 8 July 2014
By 
J. Baldwin "JB" (Birmngham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Paperback)
This is a very unusual book and the reader has to get used to the unfamiliar language and the very Irish modes of expression. The book is structured into short autobiographical chapters and following the story is quite hard work. You have to concentrate hard to piece together the individual autobiographies to get the hang of the relations between the characters. But the writing itself is brilliant: the autobiographies are bleak but often very funny; grim yet poignant, and dark and sinister yet surprisingly tender.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The spinning heart, 16 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
I really like this book, written in the normal language of the typical irish man and describing how he and his family were affected by the building trade collapse in Ireland I found it unputdownable and read the whole book in 2 days...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read again and again, 31 May 2014
By 
Jacqui Jay Grafton "I am not a blonde!" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
Multi-layered, told by many voices, everyone a small gem and vital to the finished piece. An author to look out for in the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 17 May 2014
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Just a lovely book. It's got heart and soul and although it has a kinda loose crudeness about it, that works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars loved it!, 9 May 2014
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This review is from: The Spinning Heart (Kindle Edition)
This book is so well written, contemporary, relevant to whats going on is rural ireland. very enjoyable. Cant wait to read the next one!
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The Spinning Heart
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
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