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One voice to rule them all

THIS IS THE WAY by Gavin Corbett 4th Estate, 2013 €17.99 *****

What must it be like to be a Traveller who is in hiding? How does one who is not of the settled community cope with four walls - walls that are meant to be keeping him out of the way of a feud that is positively Shakespearean in its intensity?

It must be very like This is the Way, as Corbett has crafted an extraordinarily claustrophobic experience, all through the voice of his character, Anthony Sonaghan.

His mother and father are united, despite being on the opposite sides of a deep and historic Traveller clan divide, and it seems that the sins of the father and mother are visiting their children.

The death of one sibling looms large, and the necessity of Anthony's holing up in a dingy room in Dublin creates the ideal space for an interior monologue of heroic proportions.

The language is sparse, yet percussive and one's own inner reading voice falls into the rhythm immediately. It's an unsettling feeling, to be honest, the degree to which the pace and the movement of the narrative sweeps you up in its own impulsion, and you're helpless not to get carried away.

It's an amazing feat of narrative craft, and whether or not we know precisely why we want Anthony to be safe and free, we want it strongly, right from the off. That one voice and one perspective can create so rich an environment is really quite special.

Here are some other books that draw you in with the voice of the narrator...

THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe Picador, reissue 2002 €11.45 ***

This is as dark as it gets, telling the tale of young Francie Brady's descent into madness.

Its darkness and violent moments are breathtaking; we can feel sympathy for his life, but it's pretty challenging going.

SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray Penguin, 2010 €12.85 *****

This made me so grateful that I would never have to worry about an adolescent child.

The world of the middle-class South County teen is captured perfectly, and harrowingly, by Murray, and even though we know what happens to poor Skippy – it's there in the title – it's all about how we get there.

PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA by Roddy Doyle Secker and Warburg, 1984 €17.99 ****

This could easily be considered the seminal tome for the interior Irish male voice: set in the late Sixties, we follow the thought patterns of a 10-year- old lad.

The shifting and changing of perspective is both germane, and also somewhat jarring. Nevertheless, it's a classic.


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