Longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2018
From a low and quiet sea Donal Ryan Lilliput Press Book cover

From a Low and Quiet Sea

The Dublin Edition

By: Donal Ryan

Rated 4.80 out of 5 based on 10 customer ratings
(15 customer reviews)


Limited edition of  From a Low and Quiet Sea, the fifth publication by one of Ireland’s foremost literary talents.

Three men. Each searching for something he has lost. Each trying to make sense of the road he has chosen.

For Farouk, family is all. He has protected his wife and daughter as best he can from the ravages of war. If they stay in Syria, they lose their freedom; if they flee, they will abandon all they have known of home for some dream of salvation across the merciless sea.

Lampy is distracted. He has Eleanor, but she’s not Chloe, who stole his heart when she left him. There’s the secret his mother will never tell him. His granddad’s sniping jokes are getting him down. Aside from that, he has a bus to drive; those old folks from the home can’t wait all day.

For John, the game is what it’s always been about. Manipulating people for enjoyment, for spite — and just because he can. But it was never enough. The ghost of his beloved brother, and the bitter disappointment of his father, have shadowed his life. And now it’s cold — so very cold. Will God listen to his pleas for forgiveness?

Three men, their lives converging, searching for a version of home.


Praise for Donal Ryan, author of From a Low and Quiet Sea:

‘Ryan’s work has set a benchmark to which other writers will aspire.’ – John Boyne

‘[Donal Ryan] writes with a social accuracy that is devastating.’ – Anne Enright

‘The novel, written at white heat in sentences that sometimes flow for a full paragraph, reads compulsively and is delivered with an impressively disciplined power.’ – The Irish Times on All We Shall Know (2016)


15 reviews for From a Low and Quiet Sea

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “This is a book which has already received a lot of praise from an impressive collection of authors, reviewers and the national press. This is a writer who is referred to as ‘outstanding’, ‘dazzling’ and a ‘genius’. I must say I approached this novel with some trepidation because of its literary merit – and the fact that when I mentioned to someone that I was about to start reading it, they closed their eyes, put their hand to their heart and told me to prepare myself.

    Well reader, I will now close my eyes, put my hand over my heart and tell you that you must read this book – but prepare yourself. Prepare to be impressed with the beautiful prose and exquisite use of language. Prepare yourself for the carefully structured sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Prepare to revel in the skill of the author as he constructs story arcs which explore separate characters and yet interlink them in a perfectly executed ending.

    At 181 pages I naively expected to read this book quickly. You can’t. In fact, I was relieved that the chapters are short – sometimes only a paragraph or so – and that the book is divided into four sections as it follows the plight of the different characters. It is a book that you might want to close for a few moments and absorb the imagery and emotional content before moving on. This is not writing that you want to rush. Ryan’s choice of each word – each punctuation mark even – has been so considered and used for such effect that the reader can only do justice by taking the time to appreciate this and enjoy the characterisation it creates.

    This is a novel which is achingly contemporary and that makes it a powerful and important read. It’s not conventional in it’s form, although I enjoyed the separate sections, the layout and the overall structure of the story. The text is dense and this is a literary read, but it is rewarding and warrants each and every accolade which has been bestowed upon it.

    I recommend this for those of you who are looking for a rich, literary and fascinating read of a book that is sure to collect some awards and continue to build Ryan’s reputation as a talented writer.” KATHERINE SUNDERLAND

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “From a Low and Quiet Sea is a story of three very different men. Farouk is fleeing a war-torn country with the haze of distruction and death in his wake, seeking salvation for his wife and daughter and nurturing the hope of a better future for them all somewhere new.

    Lampy is recovering from a broken heart, his thoughts continuously returning to Chloe, the girl he loved with all his heart and who he was certain reciprocated his feelings. Struggling with the coldness of her sudden departure from their relationship, Lampy harbours a dream of becoming more than he is, of a life and home that is more than it is now.

    John is clinging to the edges of life, troubled by his past and the things he has done. From the heat and sand of Syria to the small-town world of Ireland, runs three stories that converge in a way that is both heartbreaking and dazzling.

    This book will resonate with the reader in a mutlitude of ways. Donal Ryan’s extraordanary story encapsulates the varying shades of greif, loss, hope and love with a profound depth. It will break you, then delicately rebuild you, it will shock you and dazzle you because here is an author who can perfectly portray what we all feel but can seldom put into words so beautifully. The poetic, poignant prose of Donal Ryan’s will wrap itself from your heart. It’s stunning!

    This book is about three men and the way their lives come together. But it’s about so much more. It’s about heartbreak and hope, loss and love, sadness and survival. And it’s power is deeply affecting. I was awash with emotion reading this book. And I still can’t quite stop myself from thinking about it now, days later.

    From a Low and Quiet Sea is such a beautiful, beautiful book! If you’ve yet to discover this amazing author, I urge you to run to the bookshop and find this book. It’s remarkable!

    Moving. Poignant. Captivating.” RONNIE TURNER

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “From a Low and Quiet Sea takes the stories of three very different men and allows each of them to be told individually before finally connecting them touchingly together. Although not a long novel, I was swallowed up by its richly immersive prose for a few hours, lost to all but the lives of Farouk, Lampy and John.
    The first part of the book is told is set in Syria and follows Farouk, a doctor who is persuaded by a people smuggler that the only way to keep his wife and family safe is to pay to flee the country. Lyrically told in the third person, this is a harrowing account of the human costs of war. The writing here is powerfully beautiful, evoking both a sense of anger and melancholy at the brutality and hopelessness of lives torn apart by violence. As Warsan Shire says in her poem, Home; “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” and Farouk knows he has little choice but to try to escape the closing jaws. He is a man tormented by bitterness and guilt who still clings to hope and it’s this that makes his story so affecting.
    Lampy’s story is more familiar. He’s a young man who didn’t quite get the grades he needed for college and is slowly stagnating, trapped by the love of his family. If Farouk’s story is one of leaving, then it’s juxtaposed perfectly by Lampy’s static existence. He once had the chance to move to Canada but the emotional bribery of his family, particularly his grandfather, meant he never left and now drives a bus for a retirement home. Lampy first became aware that life is unfair at school, on the day he was called a bastard for not having a father. For a short time he fell madly in love but teenage love affairs end as they do and now he has to decide whether to settle for the nice girl and the safe life.The thought of making decisions like this make him want to drive the retirement bus too fast around corners so that he loses control but what could be a bleak character study is lifted by the wit of Donal Ryan’s writing here. The claustrophobia of small town Ireland is told through disarming humour, from the funny but cruel jokes of Dixie, Lampy’s grandfather to the colourful array of residents of the retirement home, there’s a bittersweet feel to this part of From a Low and Quiet Sea.
    Lampy and Dixie may use humour to cope with their anger and frustration but in the third part of the book we discover that John became twisted by the tragedy that occurred in his childhood. Now an older man, we hear him seek penitence for the crimes he has committed. John is the hardest character to like; his life has been marked with acts that have been cynically calculating or cruel. However, as he says his prayers at the end of his life we learn that he felt cheated of love, first from his parents – and particularly his father, then from the woman he fell over over heels for.
    The stories of the three men eventually come together in the tragic conclusion of From a Low and Quiet Sea, each of them brought to the same place through their earlier actions. They are men linked only perhaps briefly in life but their stories are all connected by anger, fear and love. The importance of fatherhood is also sensitively explored; whether through Farouk’s memories of his own loving father and his desire to protect his daughter; in Lampy’s relationship with his grandfather, having never known his father or through John’s sense of rejection by a father lost to sorrow. During Farouk’s part of the book, his wife tells their daughter a sad fable that makes her cry but her mother explains that its moral is how useless it is to blame others for things not being as we’d like them to be. Perhaps as it says in the passage at the top, we are all connected and so the most important thing is to be kind. This raw, honest and poetically beautiful novel will stay with me for a long time; it is an unforgettable look at fate and choice and one that I thoroughly recommend.” HAIR PAST A FRECKLE BOOK REVIEWS

  4. Rated 4 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Ryan’s third novel All We Shall Know was my first encounter with this author, that book making my year end best of list. It had a female protagonist with a caustic wit and showed a fantastic ear for dialogue as well as giving us the page-turning story of a thirty-something’s pregnancy by her unconventional pupil.

    His fourth novel is different, and it’s equally affecting, but in a different direction. Whereas All We Shall Know, moved towards lightness, this one is far darker and contemplative. Three men – three stories. Farouk, a doctor, is a refugee fleeing from the war in his country with his wife and young daughter. Lampy is an Irish lad without much of a future, obsessed with and heartbroke by his ex girlfriend Chloe. John is older, an accountant/lobbyist who is full of regrets for the things he has done or not done in his life.

    Then Ryan converges their stories in a fourth segment which connects each man to the others in a surprising coda. Having got to know the three men’s characters in detail, each beautifully written. For me, Farouk’s story shone above the other two, but his circumstances are extraordinary, whereas the other two men have a normalcy to their lives. However, Ryan’s skill in bringing them together at the end is well done. His style is spare with no words wasted but he treats his subjects with feeling and sympathy and here his skill really shows. There are moments of humour and glimpses of light, but the overall feel for me was darker, a profound feel of sadness and loss pervades the text, and the refugee crisis lingers long on one’s mind.” ANNABEL GASKELL

  5. Rated 4 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “The idea of seemingly disparate characters who lives are connected or brought together in some way is not a new one, but I thought that it was particularly well done in From a Low and Quiet Sea. The three characters of Farouk, Lampy, and John are connected, and yet the how isn’t revealed until the very end of the novel, and I found the links between them to be quite unexpected. The structure of the novel works brilliantly in this respect, with each character telling their story in turn, before the final section which is told from the perspectives of various secondary characters that the reader meets along the way. This reveals the connections between the three men, but also gives more insight into the the minor characters as well as answering the outstanding questions to bring the novel to a satisfying close.

    The three main characters are quite different, and I found their stories to be fascinating in different ways. Farouk’s tale, for me, had the biggest emotional impact, as he and his family leave their homeland behind in a bid to escape the horrors of war. Lampy’s story is one that is quite familiar, as he watches his former classmates graduating from university and beginning careers whilst he continues to work on a cash-in-hand basis and feeling as though his life is going nowhere, his frustration building. John’s story was quite different again, and is one that I found to be particularly intriguing. It is confessional in tone, as John looks back at his past, driven perhaps by a need to atone for his actions. I found it difficult to sympathise with John, but his story is an interesting one.

    From a Low and Quiet Sea is a short novel, but I think that it’s one to savour as you get to know each of the characters and their lives, and I loved that Ryan was able to give each of his characters a distinct voice. Exploring themes of loss and grief throughout, this is a relatively short novel that packs an emotional punch, and it is one that will stay with me for some time to come.” JO’S BOOK BLOG

  6. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Ireland has always produced some very fine writers, and I include Donal Ryan among them. I thoroughly enjoyed his ‘All We Shall Know’, but this latest offering that centres upon three main characters is exceptional. The first tale concerns Farouk, a young doctor fleeing with his wife and daughter from his war-torn country. The second story introduces Lampy, an Irish lad living with his mother and outlandish grandfather, and deeply enthralled by girlfriend Chloe. John, a corrupt, wealthy accountant/lobbyist, whose life had been marked since the death of his father’s favourite son, narrates his own tale. The three characters are unexpectedly brought together at the end of the book, and a shocking secret is revealed – one that I would never have guessed.

    I really like Ryan’s writing style. He is economical with words, yet conveys so much. Characters are well defined – and so realistic that you feel that they actually exist. Dialogue is taut and credible and I loved the Irish dialect. There is violence, humour and sadness in these tales of love and loss, but ultimately, this is a book about hope, redemption, and relationships. Ryan gets to the very core of his characters – and at times, his writing is quite haunting and poetic.
    I was sorry when this cleverly crafted book ended. Ryan writes with insight and compassion towards his subjects and I look forward to his next book.”

  7. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Donal Ryan is one of those writers who make it look easy and in doing so reveal just how hard it is to be a great writer. In this book he takes the lives of three men who are all disconnected and weaves together a story of profound beauty in its inherent simplicity and a reverence for its complexity – all at the same time.

    One is a heart broken refugee escaping war and a lost life where he had been happy. One is a man who has done bad things; all for his own mean benefit and as his days may be counted in ever smaller numbers so do his regrets grow in increasing magnitude – being diametrically opposed to his time left. The third is a classic under achiever who is allowing himself to drift along in small town Ireland unaware of the fates that he holds in his hands. The threads are brought together in such a way that there is both full on surprise and a feeling of inevitability. All the characters are afforded the greatest respect and are fully fleshed out to the point where you engage fully with all of them.

    The writing style is one of a love for the language and an eye for the tiny details that go to make up the mosaics of our lives and ultimately show the picture of who we have come to be. It is one of those books that is all too short, but not a single word is wasted and it may be a short but it is an exceptionally rewarding one.” TOMMY DOOLEY

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Enthralled me from the outset – lived how the tales were intertwined at the conclusion- finished book this morning but have found myself pondering over it all day – has left a lasting impression.” LIZ HORGAN

  9. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “Loved this! Some very messed up characters. Laughed and cried. Very new and refreshing, haven’t read anything like it. Looking forward to more from this author.” FIONA

  10. Rated 5 out of 5

    Lilliput Press

    “What an amazing book. I was gripped the whole way through. Heartbreaking and beautifully written. Cannot recommend it highly enough” LORNA PAYNE

  11. Lilliput Press

    “From a Low and Quiet Sea is not only very cleverly constructed, but deeply moving too. I loved it.”–Louis de Bernières, bestselling author of Corelli’s Mandolin

  12. Lilliput Press

    “It’s a beautiful, luminous kind of piece – full of mystery, compassion, woven with such skill; heartbreaking and restorative. I will carry these splintered men around with me for a long time, along with the women who have loved them.”–Rachel Joyce, New York Times bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

  13. Lilliput Press

    “An engrossing, unpredictable, beautifully crafted novel; Donal Ryan is giving us characters – their angles and their language – that we haven’t seen in Irish literature before.”–Roddy Doyle

  14. Lilliput Press

    “This is a superb novel.”–John Boyne, The Guardian

  15. Lilliput Press

    ‘This is a superb novel, from a writer building a body of work the equal of any today.’ John Boyne, THE GUARDIAN

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 208 mm

Hardback, 192pp, 208 x 136mm

Publication Date

29 March 2018

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