The Black Snow by Paul Lynch

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The Black Snow by Paul Lynch

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: The Black Snow is on the face of it a novel about farming life in Ireland but is really a tale of loss, perseverance and heartbreak.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782062042

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Barnabas Kane returned to his birthplace in Ireland with his family with the goal of setting up his own farm and raising his son in a better setting than New York. With his farm of a decent size and a good herd of cattle all seems well with Kane until out ploughing one day he and his farm hand Matthew Peoples spot smoke in the sky from the direction of his byre. The fire marks the start of a sometimes bleak downward spiral and Kane is forced to rely on the kindness of his neighbours who still see him as an outsider.

Barnabas attempts to recover from the loss of his cattle and rebuild the byre so he and his family can get back on their feet. We follow him through depression and periods of strong motivation and optimism and we also follow his wife and how the events and her husband’s moods affect her. The family unfortunately are forced to deal with many setbacks and tragedies and as a reader I really felt the highs and lows with them, especially the lows which make up the bulk of the story.

This is the second novel Paul Lynch has written with his debut being the fantastic Red Sky in Morning. I loved the first book and the incredibly original and quite poetic use of language and sentence structure and so was expecting great things of the second. I am really happy to say that the unusual sentence structure and language are continued in this offering, although less prevalent than in the first and the descriptive style of the book is incredibly absorbing. The style is quite different to the first story though and overall the delivery is a lot more conventional and less poetic than its predecessor.

All of the speakers feel genuine, with sentences often missing connective words in a way that makes reading them like reading actual thoughts or notes taken by the narrator. The language is very descriptive and Barnabas’ initial love of his surroundings shines through and makes the change and bitterness that taints firstly his wife and then him all the more disturbing.

This is at times a quite depressing story but is written in a way that makes it strangely thrilling as well. The impact of events upon the characters is disturbing and we are made to witness a family falling apart and reaching rock bottom with large sections of the book containing little in the way of relief from the harrowing tale.

One of my only criticisms of Red Sky in Morning was that the characters felt a little false and that it may have been an example of the style of the writing being more important than the substance of its characters; this is not the case with The Black Snow. The characters and their emotions are written brilliantly and a little of the style of the first book is given up.

Overall I really enjoyed reading Lynch’s second book; it was bleak and depressing but quite beautifully so. I was however more impressed by his first book as its lyrical quality was mesmerising and although passages in this story were much the same it wasn’t as consistent. That said I think Lynch could write any style of novel and I would thoroughly enjoy it for the mere thrill of the language he uses; I can’t wait to read more."

Paul Lynch’s first novel Red Sky in Morning is an absolute must read for the innovative use of language and will be a difficult book for the author to ever surpass.

Buy The Black Snow by Paul Lynch at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Black Snow by Paul Lynch at Amazon.co.uk.


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