Review: Natsayi Sithole
“Thus play I in one person many people And none contented”.
These apt words of Shakespeare introduce John Irving’s latest, provocative exploration of unconventional desire and identity. In his 13th novel, Irving constructs an intimate portrait of his bisexual protagonist, Billy Abbott.
The narrative of the main character matures as the novel progresses, and he reflects on his sexuality and attraction to men, women and transgenders while at school in New England, but also his later years and the impact of Aids in 1980s America.
Challenging the concept of ‘normality’, the novel is part polemic and part exposé of the hidden and multifaceted nature of human desire. Those familiar with Irving’s works will find themselves in recognisable territory as he explores well-trodden thematic paths. Nonetheless, this is engaging, relevant and meaningful.
Hodder & Stoughton, €14.99,
Review: Roddy Brooks
The struggle for dominance between the Cosa Nostra — as the Mafia is known on Sicily — and the judiciary has gone on for centuries.
Judge Giovanni Falcone and his colleague, Paolo Borsellino, were both killed as they led the Sicilian authorities’ bid for dominance.
John Follain — a journalist and author whose most famous work is an account of the death of American student Meredith Kurcher in Perugia — has captured the essence of that battle.
What made it harder for Falcone and his fellow prosecutors is the blurring of the lines between the ‘family’ and the authorities. Follain has drawn on the writings of prosecutors and the memoirs of Mafia members to deliver a compelling narrative in their words.
From the ‘walking corpses’ to ‘distinguished cadavers’, bomb plots and dissolving dead bodies in acid baths, Follain’s work is testimony not only to the determination and bravery of the forces of law and order, but also to the arrogance and contempt shown by the Mafia.
Review: Lauren Turner
At first sight, morbidly obese, house-bound Arthur Opp and baseball-mad teenager Kel Keller have little in common. But through their individual voices in Liz Moore’s second novel, we learn of their loneliness and the woman that links the two — Kel’s mother and Arthur’s former pupil, Charlene.
Suffering from demons of her own, she pleads with Arthur, with whom she has maintained correspondence, to give her son academic help.
What Moore gives us is a stunning portrait of the different forms loneliness takes, and the secret heartbreak behind every closed door.
Both Kel and Arthur meander through definitions of identity and family, working towards a conclusion that — if not entirely satisfactory — uncovers what lies at the heart of the human condition.
Along The Way: The Journey Of A Father And Son
Martin Sheen & Emilio EstevezSimon & Schuster, £18.99Review: Emma Everingham
This is a dual memoir from film legend Martin Sheen and his son, actor and director Emilio Estevez. Ramon Antonio Gerardo Estevez (Sheen) recalls his incredible life through a series of taped interviews transcribed for this book. His role as father to four children (Emilio, Ramon Jnr, Carlos — Charlie Sheen — and Renee) is explored, along with his struggles. We see how his relationship with eldest child, Emilio, develops through religion, and how their roles change over the years, culminating in Estevez directing his dad in Along The Way, a film about Sheen’s journey back to Spain.
Estevez’s version mirrors his father’s, but it’s interesting to hear his perspective on their relationship. He’s made a name for himself as a director and actor in the shadow of his father, but he’s kept his head firmly screwed on. A refreshing read about the bond between a father and his first-born.