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 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 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

1 review for The Thing About December

  1. Lilliput Press

    ‘This is a novel to replenish the reader’s heart and spruce the reader’s soul, although it also makes one doubt we possess such signal things. It’s a force of nature, high artifice and the product of a life-enhancing talent.’ Sebastian Barry, THE GUARDIAN

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Weight 0.5 kg

October 2013


235×156 mm, 208 pp.