|Rain Falls On Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A taught thriller, beautifully wrapped in a eulogy for the sadnesses of Ireland and Rwanda…a most unexpected tale deserving of any awards that come its way.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2017|
|Publisher: Legend Press|
|External links: Author's website|
It's a cliché that the Irish have a picturesque turn of phrase, but clichés only exist because they're true. Roddy Doyle put it differently in a recent interview with Writing magazine, when he said that With Irish, there's another language bubbling under the English. However you express it, that art of expression is woven into every other line of Clár's prose. Pick a page at random and you'll find something like the sickness that had come to roost in her home like a cursed owl or like he was God, Jesus and Justin Timberlake rolled into one or a low sobbing, slow and inevitable as rain on a Sunday: expressions that catch your smile unawares, or tear at your heart in their mundane sadness. Or sometimes both.
For that alone Rain Falls… would be worth the read – for the sheer use of language, the craft that has gone into its making, it already deserves a place on, if not the national curriculum, certainly every creative writing course worth its entry fee.
But that alone is barely the beginning…there's a story here, one man's story, that carries in its wake histories, a history of an Ireland coming to terms with the modern world and a history of Rwanda and what happened when the 'men with a single purpose' swept through the land.
Théoneste Mukamsonera was a child scooped out of a refugee camp on beyond the borders or Rwanda in 1994; rescued; given a second chance with a foster family in Ireland. All in the luck of the draw. He was lucky. In a way. Ireland of the 1990s wasn't exactly ethnically diverse and he had his share of troubles, but he handled them. He handled them in expected and unexpected ways. That he drifted to the underworld is the (again clichéd) expectation – that he should have such a passion for Ireland and its language and its poets, more so than most of its natives is the surprise…until Clár gives us an explanation for it that makes perfect sense.
We meet Theo on the run. There's been a gun shot and he's been sent by a friend to her father's place way out on the coast, until he can get clear, until they figure out what to do. Theo knows about running; he ran as a child; a midnight dash through rural Ireland is nothing by comparison – but it does bring back the memories, the ones that haunt his nightmares and the ones that are buried so deep they don't even make it into his screaming dreams.
Time-shifting is a common mechanism in the modern novel, and not one that I always approve, but here it is deployed subtly, shown as memory, shown as hazy as memory, snippets and fragments, Theo trying to understand…and so it works. More than works, it's the best way to have tied the two tales together, his childhood and his present.
The heart of the novel is what leads up to the shooting…Theo starts work in a restaurant, forges a friendship with an older woman, and another with a younger one, neither of whom know about his side-line dealing in the clubs, which would maybe have been ok until another, older stronger friendship, drags him down into the really dangerous depths of the gangland…and threatens everyone around him. As if they weren't already living dangerous lives all of their own.
I can't remember if I've already made any suggestions for my 'book of the year' for 2017 – but this is a clear contender. The horrors of the genocide are captured not so much in the telling of them, as in the loss they caused, Theo doesn't remember much about what actually happened, but he recalls how it was 'before' which makes the events so senseless. Meanwhile everyday life in Dublin has its own challenges, the desperation of the jobless, the domestic violence, the brutality of those who believe they are above the law, the young people trying to find another way, some of them succeeding, others…not so much. All of this is woven into the background of a simple thriller. A man has been shot, and the shooter is on the run…
On another level, it's not really about the violence at all…it's about how we all try to fit in, what we do to be part of the 'norm' even when we don't understand what normal is. It's about friendship. In some ways it is about race, and geography, but perhaps more about language…which defines who we are, or think we are, or who we want to be, far more than the colour of our skin or the country of our birth…language and expression is at the heart of this story, so perhaps it is fitting that it is expressed in that particularly bubbling under use of English that comes from the Gaelic sensibility.
Page-turningly tense, beautifully evoked, witty, sad, and only brutal where it needs to be. I loved it.
If you like this…I think you’ll love one of my previous ‘book of the year’ recommendations that went on to do as well as I hoped The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley or if you want to know more about the reality of Rwanda after the genocide the Bookbag recommends The Strategy Of Antelopes: Rwanda After the Genocide by Jean Hatzfeld.
You can read more book reviews or buy Rain Falls On Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rain Falls On Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile at Amazon.com.
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