There’s so much I enjoyed about this debut novel, I feel spoiled for choice. And despite the old adage to ‘never judge a book by its cover’, there is everything to love about this one. The book cover is not only a visual delight, but an actual part of a painting by the writer/artist author. It makes sense then, in terms of writing about what you know, that the main protagonist of the book, Colin Larkin, is also a landscape painter.
The story spans Colin’s life from a childhood tragedy when he was six years old, to a health crisis as an elderly man, and everything in between. It’s written in four main parts, with sub-sections interspersed with quotes from Irish painter, Paul Henry. And at the risk of sounding clichéd, the writing itself resembles a landscape painting: visual, layered, pensive, almost poetic in tone.
The west of Ireland features significantly in Beyond the Horizon. My father was a landscape painter, and very much inspired by the Mayo coast, Achill Island, and Kerry. I have first-hand knowledge, then, of living with him as a creative, where his painting often superseded family life, as with the fictitious life of Colin Larkin in Beyond the Horizon. All Colin’s observations within the story, of life around him, his relationships, his general worldview, his compulsion to observe scenes in colour and texture first and foremost, all of that rang true according to my lived experience.
The characters in the story are well-defined, distinctive and authentic. Emotions, relationships and interactions are handled deftly throughout. The pace of the story, too, was evenly balanced in my opinion, considering it covers most of Colin Larkin’s lifetime, as well as including various geographical locations around the world – Ireland, the UK, the US, India, Italy.
I could legitimately speculate about how autobiographical the story is, but that’s not my business. What I care about is the effectiveness of the storytelling, and whether or not it engages me as a reader. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book ticked those boxes for me. Out now in all good bookshops and libraries, I hope you get an opportunity to enjoy this book as much as I did.
(c) Jo Nestor
Jo Nestor is a retired Adult Educator. Her writing features in the 2021 edition of the broadsheet, Autumn Leaves; also, the 2021 edition Leitrim Guardian. She was long-listed in June 2020 for the FISH memoir competition, and won the 2020 Leitrim Guardian Literary Award. She chooses to live in hope.
Order your copy of Beyond the Horizon here.