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The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christina Dwyer-Hickey

Article by Vanessa O'Loughlin ©.
Posted in | .

Last month, during an illuminating interview with Sean Rocks, host of the RTE radio One Arts Show Arena, author Christine Dwyer Hickey described how she had abandoned her half completed novel to start a new one from scratch all because one of her minor characters just wouldn’t leave her alone. Unwilling to accept his original, short-lived fictional fate as an inconsequential character destined to be quickly killed off this imaginary man demanded to be heard at every turn and would not let her rest. This pushy fictional creature is Farley, protagonist of Dwyer Hickey’s new novel The Cold Eye of Heaven. It was he who insisted on occupying the limelight while the novel that originally gave him his existence was re-crafted as a short story.

We first meet everyman Farley Grainger, an auld fella in extremis, as he faces his end one wintry night in Dublin. Before he goes Dywer Hickey allows him to take the reader on a compelling journey with an unconventional chronology that jerks us backwards through the decades of his very Dublin existence. Although narrated in the third person this intimate recounting of Farley’s life is clearly told from his own limited and coloured perspective. The scene is perfectly set in each decade though careful inclusion of reference points that evoke the era without resorting to a heavy-handed and laboriously Reeling in the Years style listing of headline events; there are fleeting glimpses of the H-Block marches, Nixon’s visit and Italia ‘90.

Poetic and compelling descriptions of Dublin swirl around the one constant character of Farley as he relives a life full of sorrow, loss and unresolved narratives. One searing tragedy leaves him guilt-ridden and unable to move on. It defines the older man and overshadows every choice he makes for more than half his life.

The Dublin setting is far removed from Dwyer Hickey’s beloved  Italy, her second home and setting for her bestselling novel Last Train from Liguria; a book that was nominated for the prestigious Prix Européen de Littérature. Yet she can evoke the nuances and narrowness of her native city with a familiar ease and inexorably draws the reader into this compelling and unconventionally told tale that powerfully embodies the landscape that shaped not only Farley Granger but many of us.