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What did you like best about Montpelier Parade? What did you like least?
This is a well written story and it was interesting to read about a Dublin I recognize. The development of the hero from boy to young man is well handled and his deprived background is very well observed. My enjoyment of the story, however, was very much affected by the monotonous tone of the narrator. It is not always a good idea to have a writer read his own work and it certainly did not work out here.
Who was your favorite character and why?
The three main characters are all well portrayed but the narrator, Sonny, is probably the most interesting.
Would you be willing to try another one of Karl Geary’s performances?
I would certainly read another of his books but not listen to him as a narrator.
1980s County Dublin. 16 year-old Sonny Knolls is told by his mother to stop dreaming of all the things he can never have and buckle down to a butcher's apprenticeship now that he's been suspended from school for thieving and fighting. It's a bleak scenario: his mother whom he loves but doesn't help spends her life ground down 'peeling, peeling, peeling' at the sink, trying to feed her family on the scant money left over from her husband's visits to the bookies and the pub. They have no phone and life is measured out in endless cigarette butts. His only 'friend' is drop-out Sharon who offers banter and casual, meaningless sex.
Sonny helps his father with odd jobs to earn a little money and it's there in Montpelier Parade in the smart area of Monkstown that Sonny sees Vera for the first time: a beautiful woman the age of his mother, but all that his mother is not. The affair that develops between them, the 'great burning' at the centre of Sonny, is created with lyrical delicacy of language and incandescent details and brief scenarios, as he and Vera each find something to stifle the loneliness and desolation which offers escape.
This is an ambitious and brave first novel and would make a great film. I felt that too much was kept hidden about Vera herself until the very end, so that it wasn't entirely credible that this mature, cultured woman who loved books and paintings would entertain this rough lad. The other characters are all vividly real, but Vera remains - even after the final denouement - nebulous and unreal.
I don't think the narration did the novel a great service. The Irish accent was of course essential and authentic, but the overall effect was relentlessly downbeat. There's certainly plenty of downbeat bleakness in the story, but there's also joy, violence, humour, even hope and the falling cadences of the sentences became monotonously similar without giving enough recognition to the nuances of feeling.
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