The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan


The Spinning Heart

By Donal Ryan

Steerforth Press, 2014

156 pages

Told in multiple voices, The Spinning Heart recounts the story of a small Irish town after the recent financial collapse, bringing to life the struggles of people who can’t find work, are stuck in dead end jobs or bought property in ghost town developments that were only partially built. Ryan is able to bring a community of characters to life, while telling the story of a murder and a kidnapping, in just 156 pages, with a different character narrating each chapter.

I don’t want to say too much about the book, as it is worth meeting the characters and letting the story unfold on the page, but I was deeply impressed by Ryan’s ability to create depth with such brevity. Many debuts publish in the 300 – 500 page range. We live in a literary world where we often reward length over quality. But Ryan’s book is a testament to the power of condensing a story. There is not an unnecessary word in the book. The Spinning Heart was rejected over 40 times before Ryan found a publisher. I am glad he persisted with his submissions.

Ryan lives in Ireland. The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Prize in 2013.




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