The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey

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The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Irishman Farley is elderly now; at the end of his life. A nasty fall makes him reflect back to the good times, the bad times and all those times in between.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books
ISBN: 978-0857890306

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I reviewed Hickey's Last Train From Liguria so was keen to see if I'd enjoy this book too. The front cover says that Farley unravels the warp and weft of his life which is a great phrase - wish I'd though of it. Hickey lives in Dublin so I'm kind of expecting good characterization (as the book's location is Dublin) and a nice line in put-me-down wit. But will I get it? Time to find out ...

Well, I've only just started the book and it's a definite thumbs up to the second. On page 2 we have the glorious line ... our man Farley was a survivor. Not even the Shannon could keep the bastard down! Farley is elderly now and his body is not what it used to be. He's coming apart at the seams. He's somehow found himself on the bathroom floor and he can't get himself back up. But he's got a survival strategy ... Farley takes in a deep breath. That's it - relax. But whether he likes it or not, his mind starts to wander and we go back in time. First to just a few days ago, then further back to Farley's working days, his married days and his courting days.

Hickey takes her time with each period of Farley's life. It's not a particularly eventful life but it has its moments. It also has its ups and downs but before we get to all that in glorious detail, there's the small matter of Farley's 'suit'. It is both revelatory and poignant. He wonders when old age crept up on him. When - exactly - did he turn into an old man. He hadn't really noticed. Or was he avoiding it. And as if to labour the point, underline the fact, Hickey tells us about a recent trip Farley made, to collect this suit from the dry cleaners. If he remembers correctly. He's on this slow and ponderous trip into town ... he waits at the kerb for a pause in the traffic. Farley knows he could stand here all day waiting like Moses for the Red Sea to cut him a passage ... But crossing the road (or this bugger of a bleedin' road as Farley perhaps might say) is trickier than it seems. Farley's legs are a bit unsteady and his eyesight is a bit blurry. Hickey paints a portrait of a man in decline where an everyday occurrence becomes well, almost a nightmare. Read it and weep.

Hickey's writing style is terrific. I enjoyed her last book but I'm enjoying this book even better. Why? Well, the subject matter is personal, more of a chance perhaps to be evocative and up-close-and-personal and it's a great opportunity to showcase the renowned wit of the Irish. I loved it all. She had the balance just right, in my opinion. The rise and fall of one man is written about here in depth in rich prose. I was moved and drawn into the story in equal measure right from the start.

But there's plenty of laughs too. There's a piece where the rather lonely Farley bumps into a couple he knows. They are about ages with him. Farley's fine with the husband - but the wife well, she's another matter. Sticking her nose into his business. Thinking he might like to join this club or that club or maybe have meals on wheels delivered. Farley's response: (it's a silent one but it's still got clout) As if he wouldn't prefer to eat his own vomit. Three cheers for Farley, I say.

But we also see him in another light. Squirming at his own retirement 'do' which was awash with food and booze and well-wishers. Farley's not taken in for a second. Does he see many of them again? I think you can guess the answer to that one.

Hickey recounts Farley's life with style, warmth, wit and searing honesty. I absolutely loved this book. Thoroughly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Last Train From Liguria also by Christine Dwyer Hickey.

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Buy The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey at


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