The Thing About December by Donal Ryan
‘Mother always said January is a lovely month. Everything starts over again in the New Year. The visitors are all finished with and you won’t see sight nor hear sound of them until next Christmas with the help of God. The bit of frost kills any lingering badness. That’s the thing about January: it makes the world fresh.’
Rural Tipperary at the turn of the 21st century. Johnsey Cunliffe, a simple, naïve only child in his twenties, grieves the death of his much-loved father. Harassed by local bullies and excluded by his peers, Johnsey’s isolation worsens when his inherited farm is re-zoned and becomes valuable. The clouds gather as a local conglomerate tries to tempt Johnsey into giving up his family’s land, while Johnsey, the unlikeliest of heroes, must try to hold on to those things dearest to him.
Tense, complex and beautifully written, Donal Ryan’s brilliant novel The Thing About December captures the loneliness of the outcast, the pain of being an orphan at any age, and the terrible consequences of parochial greed.
Praise for Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart, winner of the Newcomer of the Year Award and Book of the Year Award (Bord Gais, 2012)
‘What a writer!’ – Jennifer Johnston
‘I was hugely impressed by The Spinning Heart. There will be many novels which explore the effect of the crash on the people of Ireland but I can’t imagine a more original, more perceptive or more passionate work than this. Outstanding.’ – John Boyne
Extract from Sebastian Barry’s review of The Thing About December in The Guardian
‘Johnsey Cunliffe is, by his own account, not quite all there. He is not so much a simpleton as a simplifier, someone who knows a handful of things with such sincerity and even ferocity that he may almost forget that there are other important things to know. The seemingly quiet realm of his brain is ruled by memories of his father – “the whole place smelled of Daddy” – and his mother, whose tenderness “tore at his soul”. He lives in something of a decent house with something of a decent bit of land attached, currently leased out to the unpleasant and ungrateful Dermot McDermott, because Johnsey does not consider himself capable of farming it himself. He sees himself as a generational runt in a line of heroes, exemplified by his vanished uncle and his revolutionary grandfathers. But as his land acquires a new and unwanted value, enemies and friends alike move in.
The reader devours the book, marvelling at the precision of the sentences and the forensic notice the author seems to have given to the particular English of his district. It is not so much a dialect as a language stolen out of the mouths of others and bullied and half-loved into a new condition.’
Read the rest of this fantastic review here
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donal Ryan was born in Nenagh in North Tipperary. His first novel, The Spinning Heart
(2012), won the Guardian
First Book Award and the EU Prize for Literature and Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the IMPAC International Literary Award and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Thing About December
(2013), Ryan’s 2015 short story collection A Slanting of the Sun
(2015), All We Shall Know
(2016) and From a Low and Quiet Sea
(2018) are all published by Lilliput and available in a limited Dublin Edition format, unique to The Lilliput Press. Donal Ryan is a professor of creative writing at the University of Limerick and lives in Limerick with his wife and children.