Book Review

Review: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan


As an Irish twenty-something, I am ashamed to admit that I’m not too fond of Irish authors. A friend of mine has often admonished me, asking me why I won’t read Irish authors when I’m hoping to become one myself someday. Luckily, I’ve started to change my opinion as of late. I’ve discovered some Irish authors that I like and admire and have managed to find authors who take a giant leap away from the “diddly-idle” and “oldies and Irish” style of Irish fiction. Donal Ryan is one such author.

Being honest, The Spinning Heart is a book I had to read. Not because I wanted to, but because I’ve had to teach it. Never in a million years would I have picked up this book and read it because I really wanted to. This is one of the joys of teaching. Without having to read this I would never have discovered this piece of literary art! So, lets get down to the nitty-gritty and jump into my very first book review!!!!

Book: The Spinning Heart
Author: Donal Ryan
Year: 2012
Publisher: Doubleday Ireland


The Spinning Heart is one of the most brutally honest books I’ve read that takes place in modern day Ireland. Set during the recession of 2008. we are immersed in tragic Limerick where a town is trying to  cope with their newfound misery. Each chapter is narrated by a different character; each with their own unique voice, each with their own story to tell. The characters range from a bereaved mother, to the daughter of the very disliked builder-gone-bust. We meet a character with serious mental illnesses, a devout wife, and an abusive father. Their stories are gripping, their pain very real. While the novel has many different narrators, each character has one thing in common; Bobby Mahon. Bobby was the foreman on the building site and has somehow influenced each of the characters that we meet in this book. He is a friendly character who is always willing to help anyone out; as Jason tells us,

“Bobby done that turn for fellas that was as good as strangers to him and looked for nothing back and nearly made it sound like it was us doing him a favour”

However, Bobby finds himself at the end of some very serious accusations as the novel progresses.

The Spinning Heart is definitely a book I’m glad to have read. For me, it started out slow. I was unsure how I felt about it until I was about three to four chapters in. After that I was hooked. I just wanted to find out what was happening!  I’m very glad that all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together at the end! I would like to stress how accurately Donal Ryan portrays the disheartened citizens of Ireland who were ‘done over’ during the recession. As a young person in Ireland today, often struggling to make ends meet in a country where wages are low and prices are rising, I felt that I could relate to the sense of disappointment that these characters expressed. The knock on effect of the recession is still in full swing and I was impressed to read something that captured the real Ireland of the 21st Century in such an honest way.

My rating:

Is this a book that you have read or are thinking of reading? Drop a comment below and let me know!

C x


5 thoughts on “Review: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan”

  1. Stories, I find, touch us more deeply when they touch upon subjects close to our hearts. I was made redundant from work during the recession of 2008 (though, not directly *because* of it), and visiting the job centre each day, seeing the look of despair in the eyes of men and women as they sought something to replace the nothing that had been forced onto them, was very disheartening. The book you’ve reviewed isn’t my cup of tea, but it was a good review, and I feel your enjoyment of having read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked your review! And, yes! How many times I’ve given up a little book bias because I *had* to read something. Being forced to is sometimes great for expanding stubborn horizons! I don’t know if it matters, but for clarification, is the rating out of 5? I tend to think people mention the range, but can’t speak for everyone.
    Can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

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