The Glorious Heresies recently won the Baileys Prize and, although I’m not always convinced by winners of big prizes, this novel piqued my interest when I found out that it was set in Cork. I’ve been there a couple of times and always enjoyed my time there (although I thankfully never experienced the gritty underworld depicted in the novel…)
The story starts when Maureen accidentally kills an intruder with a holy stone; she’s been living in a building that used to be a brothel since she and the son that she gave up for adoption as a teenager reconnected and he brought her home from London. Which is quite nice I suppose, except her son JP is a criminal kingpin and he has to dispose of the body. Naturally. This action leads to a chaotic sequence of events that sweep up a whole family, via a couple of deaths, a commune/cult situation and a teenage romance.
The characters represent a clash between old and new Ireland and all that has changed since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. Interestingly, the characters I found most sympathetic were Maureen- a hard-bitten, no-nonsense woman who has very little in the way of guilt for the way she’s lived her life- and Ryan, a teenage drug-dealer with a rough life and a gorgeous girlfriend who he is horrible to; despite this, I desperately wanted him to have a happy ending. The genius of McInerney is that she’s made characters who shouldn’t be sympathetic likeable. (And, pleasingly, she’s told me on Twitter that Ryan pops up in her next novel- so obviously I’ll be pre-ordering that IMMEDIATELY.)