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Hoping to cast off his loneliness and a restless sense of not belonging - at high school, in his part-time job at the butcher shop, and in the increasingly suffocating company of his own family - Sonny drifts into dreams of a different kind of life. A series of intoxicating encounters with Vera lead him to feel he has fallen in love for the first time, but why does her past seem as unknowable as her future?
Unfolding over a bright, rain-soaked Dublin spring, Montpelier Parade is a rich, devastating debut novel about desire, grief, ambition, art, and the choices we must make alone.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By W Perry Hall on 07-01-18
Painfully Gorgeous Rendering
The story of 16-year-old Dubliner Sonny Knolls' short affair with Vera, a posh and single English lady twenty years his senior, really resonated with me.
Montpelier Parade explores the human need for love, human contact, for the attention that contributes to our self-worth. In the universal sense, the novel shows how the hunger transcends class and time, but what makes the story so compelling is its portrayal of the alchemy in this unlikely affair.
Not until near the novel's end--due to the choice in narration--is the reader given the key to understanding the enigma of the depressive, suicidal Vera, which brings into recall all the little things leading to it.
The unlikely romance in 1980s Dublin is drawn so convincingly. Geary has a knack for keenly setting scenes, in a cadenced rhythm and with great economy. This seems to me a great feat given that the narration is second person which can have a tendency to get carried away with excitement or agitation. I typically avoid second person narration. This is the first novel I can recall reading in which I enjoyed the second person narration and thought it the best and perfect choice, and carried off brilliantly.
Montpelier Parade is Vera's upper scale neighborhood where Sonny becomes acquainted with her while helping his father, a day laborer, with repairs on her townhouse one weekend. In stark contrast, Sonny's homelife is bleak with eight others in his house, including his stay-at-home mom who is irretrievably embittered by his dad with a gambling problem and six scantly employed older brothers whose most significant contributions seem to be to household strife.
Sonny Knolls attends (and often skips class) at an across-town parochial school where he doesn't fit in, and where steals/collects parts off his schoolmates' bicycles and ultimately gets expelled. He has no real friends except a 16-year-old dropout who will do anything to get boys to like her.
His view of the world around him changes dramatically after he begins an affair with Vera who opens new worlds to him in literature, art, talks of travel and sexual and sensual rapture. His jour de ma vie.
Geary sensitively embraces the 20+ year age difference and smartly avoids what must have been a huge temptation to dive into the salacious details. Voyeurism would not have worked here for a couple of reasons. One, the relationship seems completely convincing in the circumstances leading up to its inception and the enigma of Vera is resolved by novel's end. More significantly, Sonny's narration in the second person, which Geary paces flawlessly, shows a teen who is trying to make sense of things as they happen or shortly thereafter, learning as he goes, and naive of this whole different universe of pleasure and culture.
An ultimately doomed affair--sad but transformative and redemptive. Definitely recommended.