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Gloriously savage

Low-life Cork society as depicted in The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerny, will leave you gasping for air and you'll find yourself laughing your way through an irreverent and no-holds-barred depiction of the seedier side of life

Geraldine Gardner

Geraldine Gardner


01635 886684

Gloriously savage

Lisa McInerney’s Twitter handle is @swearylady, which probably gives you an idea of her style of writing and her unflinching approach to her depiction of the underbelly of Cork city lowlife.

She tackles the themes of drugs, prostitution and gangland culture head on, not sparing anyone’s blushes, but at the same time there is a sense of affection for her characters.

The hapless Ryan is both vulnerable – neglected by his dad and a school truant – and dangerous – a teen drug dealer who does what is necessary to fit in. His girlfriend, Karine, who is clearly from better stock, rather endearingly stands by him and
their fragile relationship is a small beacon of hope.

Contrast this with the hilarious plot of murder and mayhem and you really are in for a roller-coaster ride. Maureen, the unwitting murderer (I’m giving nothing away here) and her son Jimmy, the local Mafia-style bad boy have a hideously funny relationship.

It might sound a little trite but they could only be Irish – the lyrical tone of McInerney’s writing has echoes of the playwright JM Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. For instance, Maureen is described as “crazier than a dustbin fox”. The difference is that The Glorious Heresies is very much in the present – there is a more toxic kind of undercurrent of danger.

Naturally, religion is one of the themes in the story – a rather irreverent use of a religious trinket contrasts with the religious fervour attempted by the tragically pathetic figure of Georgie, the lost prostitute and drug user.

These characters are all connected through the central murder and you find yourself laughing and crying at their fortunes, and mainly misfortunes. The humour is dark and the writing is visceral.

The Glorious Heresies is not the sort of book I would normally pick up and think I’d like to read, but I’m very glad I did. It is not for the faint-hearted, but neither is it that shocking; it just has a brutal honesty.

Part of the joy of reading and being asked to take on works outside your comfort zone is that you can discover little gems such as this. it was a well-deserved winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction in 2016. 

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