Diana Hendry

Small but perfect: So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan reviewed

In an email from Claire Keegan’s Fiction Clinic, I learned that she’d be delivering three seminars in Wexford on ‘How Fiction Works’, while down the road, at the Write by the Sea Festival, Faber would be launching her new hardback. I was excited. I’m a Keegan fan. I even considered going to Wexford. Keegan’s method

Three men on a pilgrimage: Haven, by Emma Donoghue, reviewed

I used to envy Catholic novelists – Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, François Mauriac – as having that extra point of view, namely eternity. The Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue doesn’t entirely qualify as a Catholic writer, even though she’s on record as saying she’s currently obsessed with Catholic theology, specifically Purgatory, but there’s a thread of

Memory test: The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan, reviewed

On page 231 of The Candy House, a sequel – no, a ‘sibling’ says Jennifer Egan – to the Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit From the Goon Squad, we meet a character called Noreen. Wasn’t she in Goon Squad? Quick check and yes, there she is playing a bit-part peeping through a fence. Now she’s older,

Dublin double act: Love, by Roddy Doyle, reviewed

Far be it from me to utter a word against the patron saint of Dublin pubs, Roddy Doyle. Granted he’s a comic genius, his dialogue comparable with Beckett and that this, his 12th novel, is garnering rave reviews in America. But is not Doyle’s trademark conversation between two men in a pub not just a

Is City on Fire just a box set masquerading as a novel?

Ninety pages into the juggernaut that is City on Fire, I begin to think that this is really a box set masquerading as a novel. As such it will be great. A New York setting, a cast that’s a Noah’s Ark migrant mix (from Afro to Vietnamese), a gripping crime investigation and a historical and

Unreliable memories: Laura Laura, by Richard Francis, reviewed

Just imagine: you reach a certain age and you become your own unreliable narrator. Gerald Walker, the protagonist of Richard Francis’s 12th novel, is a retired history professor who fears that ‘chunks of his life might go missing’. Laura Laura describes a year in his life which, in seamless flashbacks, encompasses most of his past.

The lust of kings

The novel is a wonderfully commodious creature. One might wish they made trousers like it, for it can stretch or shrink to accommodate almost anything, from Ali Smith’s Spring (part story, part polemic) to Max Porter’s prose-poem/fable, Lanny. Then there’s the current vogue for re-tellings: Margaret Atwood’s version of The Tempest and Pat Barker’s feminist

Too much American angst

In ‘A Prize for Every Player’ — one of 12 stories in Days of Awe, a new collection by A.M. Homes (Granta, £14.99) — Tom Sanford, shopping with his family in Mammoth Mart, soliliquises (loudly and nostalgically) about the America he remembers, and finds himself with an audience of shoppers who nominate him as the

My First Love

I made the mistake of getting in touch with him twenty years after – invited him to stay. He was almost alcoholic, had lost his front teeth, told endless anecdotes and, worst of all, was allergic to my dog. You’d think that’d be a cure or antidote to all those years of unrequited love spent

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki — review

About halfway through A Tale for the Time Being I had the uncomfortable feeling that this was going to be a reincarnation story and that I would soon discover one of the main characters (Jiko, nun, novelist, anarchist, feminist and importantly great-grandmother) to have been reborn as Ruth Ozeki, author of this — this what?

Memory games

I read this novel while convalescing from pneumonia. It proved admirably fit for purpose. A light diet, mildly entertaining and with enough twists and turns of plot to serve as a tonic. John O’Farrell is a man of many parts — comedy scriptwriter (Spitting Image, Alas Smith and Jones), political satirist (An Utterly Exasperating History

The French connection

If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one. If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one. What you’d expect, picking up

The loss of innocents

Here are two novels about that most harrowing and haunting of subjects — children who go missing. Here are two novels about that most harrowing and haunting of subjects — children who go missing. Rachel Billington’s Missing Boy is Dan, a 13-year- old runaway. Dan’s disappearance marks the beginning of a nightmare for his parents,

Boys will be boys

Reading this novel I couldn’t help but think of the opening lines of Miroslav Holub’s poem, ‘A Boy’s Head’ — ‘In it there is a space ship/ and a project/ for doing away with piano lessons.’ Not that Robbie Coyle, the hero of Crumey’s novel and the son of a socialist/communist father growing up in