The Spinning Heart is set in a small town in Ireland during the immediate aftermath of the Irish economic recession. The novel comprises twenty-one chapters, each a monologue by a different character, each capable of standing alone. The first chapter centres on Bobby Mahon whose story is revealed in bits and pieces through every other chapter. A man with a troubling childhood, Bobby is now a well respected building foreman. After he and many others lose their jobs when the local property developer skips town, he struggles not only to make ends meet but to deal with his sense of a loss of purpose. As this is a small town, the lives of friends, workmates, family members, newcomers are all intertwined; minor characters in one chapter come forward in later chapters to offer a different perspective on the same incidents. Ryan gives each character a distinctive voice which perfectly reflects that person’s personality and preoccupations. While at first the novel may seem to be a series of character studies, there is an underlying narrative which becomes apparent with the kidnap of a local child which stirs up memories and the pain of past losses. The language captures the Irish vernacular and is at times both poetic and modern. Overall it is a dark story yet there are moments of humour and tenderness. It was longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2013.
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