Red Sky In Morning by Paul Lynch

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Red Sky In Morning by Paul Lynch

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: A cross Atlantic tale of a desperate man’s attempt to escape persecution. Set to a stunning backdrop of rugged Irish countryside, violent seas and rural America all written in the most beautiful and mesmerising prose.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780879161

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It’s 1832 and Coll Coyle and his humble family are to be turfed out of their home in Donegal and Coll is just angry enough to confront the landowner’s son who is responsible. The repercussions of Coll’s actions are huge and Coll is forced to go on the run. He attempts to escape across the unforgiving and desolate landscape of North West Ireland, the brutal Atlantic Ocean and the plains of North America, all the while stalked by the incredibly dangerous and violent John Faller. Red Sky in Morning is Paul Lynch’s debut novel and it is a real hit.

I remember first reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac and having to stop every so often just to re-read lines and passages (sometimes even aloud) just because they flowed so beautifully and had such a lyrical quality to them. I found this with Red Sky in Morning, especially in the early stages of Coll Coyle’s journey fleeing across bogs and moors in Ireland, with lines such as soft rain from quicksilver sky and the land silent as stone. Lynch writes like no one I have read before, with an unconventional sentence structure that just works, and once you get into the story his style of writing just whisks you along.

Red Sky in Morning is a mesmerising tale taking us through stunning landscapes as we follow both Coll and his pursuer John Faller. This is a joy to read - even the sections detailing the terrible squalor faced by Irish migrants whilst travelling across the Atlantic and the shocking conditions and prejudice they faced once in America. It is a great achievement that even the bleakest moments in the story were not uncomfortable. Paul Lynch writes absolutely beautiful prose that is incredibly exciting to read. The plot is well paced and the action is underway from very early on.

The character of John Faller is always just behind Coll adding real jeopardy and an incredibly unpleasant villain to the tale. Faller is relentless in his hunting of Coll and at times Faller seems more an irresistible force than a human.

Faller is not the only obstacle faced by Coll with desolate landscapes and his position in American society as an Irish migrant adding a real depth to the story. Coll’s life when in America gives a disturbing look at the unpleasant side of human nature. Lynch doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects and it is all the better for that.

Although enthralled by the story and the way it was written I found myself unable to relate to Coll for much of the first section of the book. Despite all he was going through I didn’t feel much of an emotional attachment to the character, he didn’t quite feel real. Coll was a man who was willing to fight for his family at the start and confront the landowner’s son at great risk, but once on the run across Ireland he seems to have little thought or care towards them. He just didn’t seem as human a character as the situations required. This changed though and from the second section of the book (a necessary lull in the chase) Coll becomes much more thoughtful and relatable and we get to know him and his feelings better. This is only a small gripe for an otherwise brilliant book and it’s only fair that Paul Lynch’s debut novel isn’t quite perfect.

Red Sky in Morning and Paul Lynch have a lot to live up to, being the subject of a major publisher bidding war and gaining a six figure two book deal of which Red Sky in Morning is the first. Publishers must see real potential in Paul Lynch and this book proves them right. He is a writer with a distinctive and exhilarating style who has proved himself one to watch, but there is still room for improvement and hope for even better things to come.

A stunning debut novel, Red Sky in Morning is a beautifully written and engaging story and Paul Lynch is a writer with a great future. I can’t wait to read his next novel. I would strongly advise people to try this book and become as captivated by it as I was, it has a gripping plot with great depth and some of the best use of language around. A really rather special little novel.

I would like to thank the publishers for introducing me to a book and an author that enthralled me and that I’m sure will continue to enthral me for years to come. We also have a review of Lynch's The Black Snow.

For those who enjoy stunning backdrops and an exciting chase like in Red Sky in Morning I would suggest The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan.

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