Book Review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies
by Lisa McInerney

Publication date: 1st January 2016
Publisher: John Murray
Pages: 371


‘He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn’t gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn’t bring herself to turn him over.’

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

Source: Goodreads


I’m sorry to say that this book was just not for me. Having received ‘The Glorious Heresies’ as a Secret Santa gift at Christmas, I was eager to give it a go, particularly given its rave reviews online and accreditation as 2016 winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

This book took me a long time to read and I had to actually force myself to pick it up, eventually resorting to skimming the last third. Despite not giving it my full attention, I felt the ending was weak and not worth the read. In places the writing is of great quality, but overall I found the writing to be as messy as the lives of the characters McInerney describes. The Times is quoted on the front cover as stating this book is “Fiendishly Hilarious”, other reviewers note this same trait. Having just finished the book, I must say I didn’t laugh once. Perhaps my sense of humour is different to that of the Times reviewer, or maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I honestly could not identify any situations in which humour was the aim.

One of the key problems I faced were the number of characters within the story, none of which I particularly liked. Almost every chapter jumps around to the story of one of the many monotonous characters and for a few lines I often found myself clueless as to which character this part of the story related to. The story telling seemed a shambles in parts, including some chapters towards the end of the book which detailed events which happened a lot earlier. The only part I remotely enjoyed reading about was the destructive romance between teenage couple Karine D’Arcy and Ryan Cusack, but even that became repetitive and predictable.

Set in Cork, Ireland, the story line was brutal and dark in parts but sadly I had no interest in the fate of the dislikable characters. At one point, a man is shot yet there is no feeling of shock or other relevant emotion created. Of course it is possible that McInerney intended the story to read this way, but I also felt little emotion for ill-fated Georgie.

“Ryan” she blubs. “I can’t. My daughter’s here. All of this is so that I can get her back. You telling me I can’t see her again is just insanity – “

From reading other reviews online, I can see that this book has divided its readers. I have sadly been left disappointed, but can’t help but feel that this story and writer have more to offer in another medium. I appreciate McInerney’s talent and can picture more success if this story were to made into a film, allowing the location and the author’s true creativity to shine.

Overall rating: A disjointed story line of dull characters which I just couldn’t get into. I’m sadly rating this book one star and would not recommend it to my friends – life’s too short!


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