From a Low and Quiet Sea
By Donal Ryan
In his previous novels and collection of stories, Irish writer Donal Ryan explores the lives of the dispossessed and the dynamics of Irish life on the margins. His first two novels--The Spinning Heart (2012) and The Thing About December (2013)--were famously rejected dozens of times before finally being published and winning, or being nominated for, a slew of awards, including the Booker Prize.
THE STORY: Divided into four sections, From a Low and Quiet Sea follows the lives of three varied protagonists, before their lives eventually intertwine. Farouk, the focus of the first section, is a doctor in Syria, who flees to Western Europe with his family after witnessing an atrocious act. The second part follows Lampy, a young man in Ireland, who lives with his mother and grandfather, while attempting to heal from a broken heart. John, the novel's third protagonist, is an elderly lobbyist and moneyman who becomes violently obsessed with a much younger crush. The characters, though ostensibly without connection, are drawn together in the final act, as revelations and connections rise to the surface.
Penguin. 192 pages. $16. ISBN: 9780143133247
Guardian (UK) ****1/2
"[T]hroughout all his work runs a careful study of Ireland's historical prejudices, combined with clear insights into what makes it such a peculiar, complicated and contradictory country.... His books are filled with love and righteous anger, most of which lurks darkly beneath the surface ready to explode like an ill-judged comment at a family gathering." JOHN BOYNE
Express (UK) ****
"The end of From a Low and Quiet Sea ties the narratives of Farouk, Lampy and John together in a manner that is perhaps slightly too novelistic and neat. But Ryan's novel is a deeply empathetic and at times angry portrayal of three very different men facing loss in the 21 st century." HUSTON GILMORE
Irish Times ****
"The word 'trinity' wouldn't be out of place, as there is a sense of religion about this book, although not in a conventional sense.... Coincidence might be a little strained at the end in order to make those final connections work, but perhaps the neat seeding of a realistic novel is not intended here." MARTINA EVANS
New Statesman ****
"Ryan's writing is propulsive, fluid with run-on sentences that capture the thoughts of his characters, from Farouk's blunt shock upon encountering the boat he hopes will take him and his family to safety, to Lampy's...