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The Thing About December
‘He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn’t hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy’s voice. But you’d have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.’
While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns. Set over the course of one year of Johnsey’s life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is. Donal Ryan’s award-winning debut, The Spinning Heart, garnered unprecedented acclaim, and The Thing About December confirms his status as one of the best writers of his generation.
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A concise, radiant, measured and integral work. . . . This is one of those beautiful, serious, fully living novels that make you laugh out loud. . . . Donal Ryan is a magus of a writer. He has such magic at his disposal to tell a story. . . . This is a novel to replenish the reader’s heart and spruce the reader’s soul, although it also makes one doubt we possess such signal things. It’s a force of nature, high artifice and the product of a life-enhancing talent. - Guardian
Ryan writes from the rural heartland in prose that always pushes for the truth of things. . . . His characters are large-hearted people in a small-minded world. . . . He underplays the ironic distance and pulls our sympathies tight. And he tells a great story. His paragraphs are unnoticeably beautiful, his heart always on show, and he writes with a social accuracy that is devastating. . . . There are . . . not many who hit the sweet spot of the Irish tradition as Donal Ryan does here. - Observer
Painfully moving . . . Ryan writes with absolute confidence, balancing emotion, surprise and ambiguity. . . . In his descriptions of the conflicts between stunted young men and their domineering parents he recalls the great John McGahern . . . he is indisputably carving his own terrain with these short, fierce books that strike at the heart of what it has meant to be Irish in recent times . . . Ryan’s work has set a benchmark to which other writers will aspire. - The Irish Times
Clear-eyed and moving. - Irish Independent
Powerful . . . Ryan is clearly committed to his subject and possesses the insight and empathy to illuminate the heart of the matter. - Financial Times
Ryan is a remarkably good chronicler of contemporary Irish life, and The Thing About December fully confirms the promise of his earlier novel. - Irish Independent
The Thing About December pinpoints a voice and perfect it . . . compelling and heartbreaking . . beautiful, yet simple and utterly convincing. . . . A powerful and satisfying read. - The Sunday Times
Even stronger and more harrowing than his debut. . . . Ryan is the natural successor to the late John McGahern. . . . Ryan holds you to the page by the sheer force of his language. . . . Ryan has an impressive ear for human conversation. . . . If you’re interested in the state of Irish fiction now, pick up a copy of this book. - Sunday Business Post
Displaying again his exceptional gift for pinning a voice to the page, Ryan transforms Johnsey’s self-torturing internal soundtrack into something that’ll have you alternately cringing, cheering and laughing. - Daily Mail
Ryan’s urgent, poetic prose captures the internal distress of his main character with forensic intensity. . . . a testament to this brightest of new writing talents. . . . Ryan has risen to the challenge of his second novel admirably. Recommended. - The Independent
Powerful writing that certainly cements Ryan’s status as the newly crowned king of what the Irish Times has dubbed “recession lit”. - The Sunday Times
A powerful and touching meditation on loneliness and isolation . . . Ryan continues to establish himself as an important voice in recording contemporary Ireland. - Daily Telegraph
Cements Ryan as the sharpest chronicler of modern Irish life. - Esquire
Donal Ryan is from Nenagh in County Tipperary. His first novel, The Spinning Heart, was published to major acclaim. It won the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature (Ireland), and Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards; it was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Thing About December was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. Donal is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Limerick. He lives with his wife Anne Marie and their two children just outside Limerick City.