Winner – The Guardian First Book Award
Winner of two Irish Book Awards – Newcomer of The Year and Book of The Year
In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.
The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.
“Irish author Ryan’s debut takes readers to the ‘heart’ of hardscrabble life in Ireland in the era after the economic boom and bust of 2008. The novel received Book of the Year honors at the Irish Book Awards. . . . Reminiscent of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, this book gives readers a story—or rather stories—told from multiple perspectives, each chapter using a different voice. . . . Disturbing and unnerving but ultimately beautiful.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“[Ryan] credibly conveys the viewpoints of men and women of all ages in language distinct from one section to the next. . . . [T]his startling debut reads like a modern Irish twist on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Equal parts mournful and hopeful, the book pays keen attention to the ways lives coalesce and fall apart in time of personal and national crises. . . . Ryan has created a faithful portrait of a time and place in his debut novel, but his truest accomplishment lies in the fact that, though the individual accounts add up to a greater whole, each story stands on its own.” —Publishers Weekly
“The traditional epithet for a good first novel is ‘promising’. The Spinning Heart, however, is far more than that. Instead, it’s the unambiguous announcement of a genuine and apparently fully-formed new talent.” —The Spectator
“Although the subject matter is overwhelmingly bleak, the prose is lyrical, and the voices are authentic. Flashes of humor and tenderness shine through as well, as the helplessness and frustration of an era is effectively captured through the lives of these small-town residents.”
“A funny, moving, technically inventive first novel…. Structurally the novel gestures to William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, while Ryan’s sensitive observations on Irish life seem responsive to the work of his compatriot Patrick McCabe. That Ryan does not look out of place in such literary company is a measure of his achievement.” —The Financial Times
“The recession has hit rural Ireland, and ‘the sky is falling down.’ Through 21 different voices, Donal Ryan’s virtuoso debut novel pieces together a fractured portrait of a community in shock. . . . What is so special about Ryan’s novel is that it seems to draw speech out of the deepest silences; the testimony of his characters rings rich and true – funny and poignant and banal and extraordinary – and we can’t help but listen.” —The Guardian
“I can’t imagine a more original, more perceptive or more passionate work than this. Outstanding.” —John Boyne
“Startling audacity… [The Spinning Heart] may be slim in size, but it is hugely ambitious in structure and devastating in its emotional impact. Too often contemporary fiction is criticized for not engaging enough with contemporary issues, but this breathtakingly empathetic account of a community crumbling under the pressures of the recession deserves to stand as a companion piece to Anne Enright’s wonderful The Forgotten Waltz, also set against the boom and bust of recent Irish history.” —Lisa Allardice, Guardian First Book Award Chair and Guardian Review Editor