Book Review: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

Donal Ryan’s debut novel is easily the best book I’ve read this year. The Spinning Heart is set in a small Irish village in the period following the disastrous economic downturn of 2008. I think part of the appeal of The Spinning Heart is it’s location. Ireland flourished during the boom years but the recession had devastating consequences for the country.
The Spinning Heart is a relatively small novel at 159 pages but a lot is packed into those pages. The Spinning Heart isn’t a straightforward account of life in Ireland since the recession. The book has twenty one chapters, each chapter is devoted to one character’s life in Ireland post-Celtic Tiger. It might seem overambitious to have twenty one narrators but all the characters are connected through  the closure of a local builders and this means there are no loose ends. Each narrator has a very distinct voice and position within the wider situation in Ireland but by combining all the stories within the same town, the book is provides an incredible insight into the impact of the recession in Ireland. I find some novels with multiple narrators eventually fall into the trap of the different characters becoming very similar and a little confusing but this is not the case here. Ryan gives each character a “voice” through the use of local dialect and turn of phrase and there is no chance of muddling the characters.

Ryan’s writing captures life in a small community at the brink of social and economic destruction beautifully. I think its incredible how he managed to develop a story so perfect in so few pages without any lack of detail or character development. I particularly like how he managed to develop the characters well enough for the story to flow but managed to avoid unnecessary information, his writing is concise and descriptive. It’s just an outstanding novel.

I cannot recommend The Spinning Heart enough and I’m eagerly awaiting Ryan’s next work.

Have you read The Spinning Heart?


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