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The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Writing.ie | General Fiction

By swirlandthread

‘He wondered if he should stop wondering, when a wandering mind was a heresy.’

2016 Bailey’s Prize Winner Lisa McInerney’s novel The Glorious Heresies was released through John Murray Publishers earlier this year.

A gritty debut, The Glorious Heresies is a harsh look at the underworld belly of drugs, drink and prostitution with Cork humour thrown in!!

This book I bought myself in Waterstones Cork and my review is as honest as ever.

‘One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society.

Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family.

Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city.

In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.’ ( Courtesy of Goodreads)

The Glorious Heresies packs a serious punch.

From the opening lines, I knew that this was going to be something different. We are introduced to Ryan Cusack, a young fifteen year old, with a crush on the beautiful Karine D’Arcy.

‘He left the boy outside its own front door. Farewell to it,and good luck to it. He wasn’t going to feed it anymore; from here on in it would be squared shoulders and jaws, and strong arms and best feet forward.’

Ryan Cusack, is the product of a very troubled family. Born of a Neapolitan mother and a Corkonian father, Ryan grew up surrounded by anger & alcohol. His mother tragically dies when Ryan is younger, leaving him & his five younger siblings in the care of his father, Tony Cusack.

Tony is a man with many problems. He ‘had a stench. Forlorn and forgotten, cast out…’ He has a weakness for alcohol and is incapable of looking after his children. His relationship with Ryan, his eldest, is fraught with tension and resentment. With no-one to guide him or give him direction, Ryan is angry. He is angry with his mother for leaving them, his father for his drinking, his school for caring. He is talented, he is able, he is an excellent musician but the environment he finds himself him doesn’t nurture these talents and Ryan soon realises he can make a name for himself in a very different & dangerous way.

Ryan and Karine are the Romeo and Juliet of The Glorious Heresies. Their destiny is entwined throughout as they move into adulthood and although their behaviour at times is, shall we say rather dubious, you cannot help but have sympathy for them. They try to be good, they try to go straight but the bad stuff just won’t stop happening.

‘People are comfortable with stereotypes; they want to think they have a handle on their merchant. You gift them an image so you can keep earning and you jettison whatever bit of yourself doesn’t fit. That’s just how it is.’

There are some of the most amazing lines in this book that I have ever read. Each page in my copy has pencil marks denoting sections I want to share with you including this one:

‘I work at a conveyor belt of deviants and I know for a fact you failed quality control. The man knocked your window in because you’ve been playing Hide the Underage Sausage’

Without giving any spoilers away, these words are spoken by Jimmy Phelan to Tara Duane. Jimmy is probably one of the most dangerous characters in the book. For Jimmy Phelan, the end most definitely justifies the means. Jimmy is ‘The Man’, the guy you do not, under any circumstances, want to get on the wrong side of.

But unfortunately for Jimmy, his mother Maureen, causes a problem, she accidentally kills a man leaving Jimmy to tidy up after her.

So begins a tale of violence, as orchestrated by Jimmy Phelan.

Jimmy takes many people with him on this journey, without a thought to the devastation he leaves in his wake.

There are so many characters in The Glorious Heresies, all with a very different but sad story to tell.

We are introduced early in the book to Georgie, a drug addict and a prostitute caught in a never-ending spiral of despair. Georgie is one of life’s casualties, thrown on the rubbish heap to fend as well she can. Unfortunately for Georgie, she too ends up caught in the far-reaching net of Jimmy Phelan. The story of Georgie is, for me, the saddest of all. Georgie tries to escape but just keeps getting pulled back in. She suffers and Lisa McInerney portrays this so realistically in her descriptions of Georgie.

‘My city stretches in the dark, and I can no more go back than go forward’

The Glorious Heresies is a must read.

Yes, if you are local like me, you will recognise places, hear accents, experience a level of familiarity with every page turned. Yet, the stories of Ryan and Karine, of Maureen and Jimmy, of Georgie, of Tony – all their stories could be in any city or country in any part of the world. It’s easy to replace the street names with names you are familiar with and put these characters in your neighbourhood or town.

Lisa McInerney’s novel is a ballsy, yet witty read told with a touch of Cork humour and a lot of passion.

I was restraining myself in writing this review, as I felt I’d better let you discover for yourself what a worthy winner of the 2016 Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction Lisa McInerney is.

Pick up copy in your local bookshop or online and please let me know what you think!!

Meet Lisa:

Lisa McInerney was born in 1981 and just about grew up to be a writer of contemporary fiction.

In 2006 she started a blog about working class life in a Galway council estate, ‘Arse End of Ireland’, through which she documented Irish life with a kind of gleeful cynicism. In the same year, The Irish Times called her ‘. . . the most talented writer at work today in Ireland’, and author Belinda McKeon said that ‘she takes the Celtic Tiger by the scruff, and gives it a sound kicking in prose that sears’. Nominated for Best Blog at the Irish Blog Awards for three years running, she took away the Best Humour gong in 2009, which came as a surprise as she wasn’t aware she was being particularly funny at the time.

In 2013, Lisa’s short story ‘Saturday, Boring’ was published in Faber’s Town and Country anthology, edited by Kevin Barry. ‘Berghain’ was published in 2015 in The Long Gaze Back, an anthology of Irish women writers edited by Sinéad Gleeson. ‘Redoubt’ was commissioned for Christmas 2015 by BBC Radio 4 and ‘The Butcher’s Apron’ was written in 2016 for the special ‘In The Wake Of The Rising’ issue of The Stinging Fly.

A challenge set by her agent led to Lisa’s writing The Glorious Heresies over the summer of 2013. Through the mischief made by five Corkonian rebels – a drug dealer, a sex worker, an unrepentant penitent, a gangland boss and a failed family man – she explores family, shame, regret and redemption in modern Ireland.

Lisa lives in Galway with a husband, a daughter and a dog called Angua. She learned the word ‘sporadically’ from Clueless, and has endeavoured to use it sporadically ever since.’

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