Winner of this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Glorious Heresies is – put simply – a glorious read.
In the backdrop of post – recession Cork, Ireland – we encounter murder, prostitution, teenage infatuation and child abuse. McInerney sets the scene in her first chapter with “The Dead Man” where we join an elderly lady who after hearing an intruder enter her house hits said intruder with a holy stone and unwittingly commits murder. What follows is a series of misfits trying to cover up the murder against the backdrop of a destructively intense teenage relationship.
That summary makes the book sound relentlessly bleak but it is, at the right times, hilarious. For example, the murderer’s thoughts immediately after the crime turn religious: “She did think…that it might be a jolly to ring for a priest, just to see how God and his bandits felt about it. Maybe they’d try to clean the kitchen floor by blessing it, by the power vested in me.”
What stood out for me was how McInerney’s characters are anything but one dimensional. The reader’s pre-conceived notions are constantly twisted, turned and challenged. For example, when we first meet one of the misfits charged with the ‘clean-up’ Tony, we are led to believe that he is a coward, a snivelling wreck of an alcoholic. Later as the story progresses we witness how he abuses his children in his inability to cope without the mother who has long since died. His son, the wannabe gangster and habitual drug taker is portrayed as a ‘hard man’ but the gut wrenchingly beautiful references to his memories of playing piano with his mother contrasts this image wonderfully.
The juxtaposition of personalities makes this book special and showcases McInerney’s unquestionable ability to write a stunningly good story. The pace of the novel never slows down – not for a second – until it ends. I wish it hadn’t.
Recommended for: anyone who enjoyed reading something that is funny, engaging and clever.
Favourite quote: “This is what it boils down to: image. And not like wearing designer sunglasses and jeans so tight they melt your balls. Just in general. What you give out, what people see in you when they first meet you. I don’t play piano. I haven’t forgotten it…The music won’t go away…So I fake it. I put my fingers to a set of decks and I learned to mix. That image works. People are comfortable with stereotypes; they want to think they have a handle on their merchant.”
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you have read the book or if the above piques your interest in the comments below.