‘Small houses. Small sanctuaries. Small lives. The city runs on the macro, but what’s that, except the breathing, beating, swallowing, sweating agonies and ecstasies of a hundred thousand little lives?’
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, Pg.363
Winner of the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Glorious Heresies certainly lives up to the hype surrounding it. Stealing this beautiful hardback copy – pictured above – from my dad at Easter (his taste in books can sometimes be surprisingly close to my own, he also had Anne Enright’s The Green Road!) I was immediately enthralled by McInerney’s writing. She is so brutally honest and direct. There is no glossing over and no turning away from the realistic depictions of everyday life in ‘the arse end of Ireland’, aka Cork city.
McInerney depicts the criminal underworld and all of the characters that are swept up by its forceful currents, either through personal choice or not, in a way devoid of judgement or comment. A teenage drug dealer who has suffered abuse from his single father since he was young; a prostitute who ran away from home as a teenager; a nosey know-it-all who can’t help sticking her nose in where it’s not wanted; a gang-leader with a batty mother he recently saved from behind ‘enemy lines’ – a poverty-stricken London tenement; and the mother herself who feels the brunt of Ireland’s ‘fucked up psyche’ on her shoulders most keenly in her old age. The characters that litter the pages of The Glorious Heresies are multifaceted and three-dimensional. The ways in which they interconnect are seamlessly and surprisingly done. Every page is a new revelation, a new facet of information that fits into this bigger picture of a society torn between the paradoxical nature of the past and the present.
‘Between brown walls, behind windows too close to sagging trees, underneath the tick-tock of wall clocks in sync, Georgie took in the scent of marrowfat peas and wet clay. She knew now how much worse things could be, and yet she still felt it: the hours lost and opportunities turned stale in the country air, the feeling that if she didn’t get up and march out she’d grow roots down through the thin carpet, down through the foundations, down into the soil, the dirt, the rock, and trap herself there until her brain turned to jelly and thick hairs sprouted on her chin. Her parents were born of the land and stalled by the land, and Georgie was an alien. She’d taken off because there didn’t seem to be any other way to go. Similarly, there was no way back now’.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, Pg.31
What I loved most about McInerney’s debut novel was her ability to strike a balance between the harsh brutality of a society steeped in violence and the fragile but tender relationships that are born out of it. McInerney is able to reach into the heart of her characters and make them believable and real. A seriously stunning read.