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2018 Man Booker Longlist: From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

low and quiet sea

We’ll be churning out the rest of the longlist this week in hopes to cram them all in before the shortlist announcement is mad. Next up for our panel is Donal Ryan’s newest book, From a Low and Quiet Sea. Here are our reviews…From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
2018 Man Booker (longlist)
Published in: 2018
Judges: Jen, Book Worm, Nicole, Anita, & Lisa
Find it/buy it here: From a Low and Quiet Sea

Synopsis (from Amazon):

‘An engrossing, unpredictable, beautifully crafted novel’ RODDY DOYLE

Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.

Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.

John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

Nicole’s Review: So. Much love.  I struggled a bit at the start of each story with the writing style, but it took me just a couple of pages to become fully engrossed in the stories.  A short book, and a fairly fast read, with tons going on.   There are myriad topics to explore.

….I learned an important and valuable lesson: if you say something enough times, the repetition of it makes it true. Any notion you like, no matter how mad it seems, can be a fact’s chrysalis. Once you say it loud enough and often enough it becomes debatable. Debates change minds. Debate is the larval stage of truth. Constant, unflagging, loud repetition completes your notion’s metamorphosis into fact. The fact takes wing and flutters from place to place and mind to mind and makes a living, permanent thing of itself.

I thought this book was brilliant.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Character Development: 4/4
Plot Development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 19/20

Jen’s Review: I loved this book. Like Book Worm (below) I used to say that I was not a fan of short stories, but over the last few years I’ve discovered some amazing short story collections and am becoming a convert. This book however isn’t really a short story collection since the chapters are interconnected and the last “story” brings all the themes and characters together in a beautiful way.

A few years ago we read All that Man is since it was nominated for the Man Booker. I hated that book with a passion. This book succeeds where that book failed in its genuine portrayal of modern manhood and masculinity. I found it to be an interesting and compelling read but also one that made me contemplate masculinity in its various forms. I thought this was an interesting counterpoint to the other books on the list that focused more on women’s issues. The truth is gender roles/norms can be constraining for both genders (although obviously the power dynamics are different). Full disclosure: I studied men’s mental health and masculinity as part of my graduate training (my dissertation was based on the development of a depression treatment for men) so it’s an topic I find especially interesting.

This book is beautifully written and the characters are well developed. The first storyline was the most interesting to me, but they were all fairly engaging and I loved how the author tied them all together at the end. This one is, to date, one of my favorite books on this year’s list.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character Development: 4/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Book Worm’s Review: This book is made up of 3 interconnected short stories about 3 different men and I am sad to say it has not managed to change my opinion about short stories, I am still not a fan.

Story 1 about Farouk was my favourite story and it is the beautiful way this is written that bumped my writing quality points up to 4 the rest of the book I found to be nothing special and story 2 I hated. I did like the way things connected at the end.

Apart from Farouk I didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters in a meaningful way and while the story tied up in the end there wasn’t really a cohesive plot to speak of.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character Development: 2/4
Plot Development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 12/20

Anita’s Review: The structure of this one is not the norm. I would barely characterize it as a novel. The last part brings the first three parts together in an interesting way, but still didn’t leave me feeling like I read a novel. All that being said, I LOVE short stories, and the writing is so well done. Ryan brings these characters to life, and honestly I could have read entire novels about each one. For me, this book is the first one that I feel is worthy of the short list. I felt like I was reading about real people, and as if my friend was telling me about these people over a cup of coffee. The way Ryan wrote about them, I was riveted.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character Development: 4/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Lisa’s Review: Like Overstory, the first part of the book consists of stories about three seemingly separate characters – Farouq, Lampy, and John. Like Warlight, pieces of this puzzle come together as you read through to the end of the book. However, unlike either of the previous books, the tying together of stories of these three men at the end of the book is brief and quick. I thought this was brilliant. I found myself going back to re-read sections and think about how they all tied together.

From a Low and Quiet Sea had a big emotional impact on me. My heart broke reading this short book. The characters – and particularly the men – are so vulnerable, and all in different ways. And, even though some parts of the book were unbearably sad, there was also hope in the formation of a new relationship, and in the deep love of family. I particularly liked how a curmudgeon grandfather, Dixie, would wait for his grandson, “catch himself thanking God for him, for delivering him home from the cold night” but “could never convert his love to words” and his longing to hold his grandson was “foolishness that swept through him, more every day…” And, when his grandson needed him, he was right there.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character Development: 4/4
Plot Development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 19/20

Full panel score: 17.2/20

Ranking of longlist books:
1. Overstory (18/20)
2. From a Low and Quiet Sea (17.2/20)
3. Warlight (15.56/20)
4. The Water Cure by Mackintosh (14.2)
5. The Mars Room (14/20)
6. Snap (11.5/20)
7. Sabrina (9.5/20)

We want to hear from you. Have you read the book? What did you think? Does it deserve to make the shortlist? Why or why not?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    This was one of the first of the list I read. I’d forgotten how much I liked it- short but so full.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2018
  2. I just fell in love with this book all over again. Loved Lisa’s review. ❤

    Like

    September 11, 2018

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