Literary Fiction

The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan

12 May 2019
The Spinning Heart Book Cover The Spinning Heart
Donal Ryan
City and town life

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2013 Shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award 2014 Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 Winner of Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2012 âeoeMy father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasnâe(tm)t yet missed a day of letting me down.âe In the aftermath of Irelandâe(tm)s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds. The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant. Donal Ryanâe(tm)s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.


The Spinning Heart is an outstanding book that vividly portrays the damage the financial crisis had on people’s lives in Ireland while elevating our reading experience to such wonderful heights with beautiful poetic writing.

“There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind, though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.”

Often in moments of hardship, you find humour, and Donal Ryan weaves the light and dark of a community dealing with a local murder and the hardships of life during the economic crash in Ireland in 2008.

The collapse of the economy and the construction industry was catastrophic. Building companies went bust, leaving builders, suppliers and tradesmen massively in debt as each had extended their credit with banks for greater and greater rewards. Ghost estates of houses in various states of completeness littered the country. Exactly the scene that anchor’s Donal’s book.

The structure of the book is told chapter by chapter in the first person from an array of 21 outstanding characters, showing the diversity that exists in a rural Irish community. The image and persona of each character is magically brought to life with wonderful impact. The central character and soul of the novel, is Bobby Mahon, a foreman on a building site owned by Pokey Burke. Following the collapse, Pokey absconded leaving huge debts and unemployed former workers dazed by the fact that he hadn’t been paying corporation tax or the income tax and insurance contributions for his employees. 

There is an uneasy despairing acceptance from many of the characters and a harsh ruminating atmosphere is maintained as we journey through the narrative. Many of the voices carry the connection with Bobby through their own tales; some knowing and admiring him, some recognising his presence from a distance. The wonderful touches of personality that each character paints of the community draws us an amazing picture of life and its hardships, the complexion of the people and how they always find a way to keep going no matter how broken their lives become. What I found very emotional and heartbreaking were the moments in the narrative where we come to appreciate how damaging a person can be to a wife, husband, son, daughter, friend or neighbour without specifically meaning it, but due to being selfish or stubborn or uncompromising, how they can affect the lives of others, especially those closest to them. Bobby blames his father for the darkest most destructive aspects of his life.

“My father still lives back down the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t missed a day of letting me down.”

This is an exceptional book, devastating, compelling and resonates with many communities. Donal Ryan writes with great humanity and honesty, as his rotation through his characters brings life to a village managing goodness, badness and murder. The complexity of perspectives and whispering dialogue is astounding. I highly recommend this book and I’m not surprised it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 as his debut book.

Additional Book Ratings
Cover Design: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Title: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Proofreading Success: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Quality of Book Formatting: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
Book Format/Status: Paperback/Released
Illustrations: N/A
Number of Pages: 156
Number of Chapters: 21 (approx 7 pages per chapter)

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

Find Reviews
High Quality Honest Reviews
Latest Tweets