Book review: The Portable Veblen

IF YOU see squirrels as rats with bushy tails, here’s a warning: this review contains vermin (and nuts). 

However, if your every encounter with a squirrel is akin to a fairytale, then you’re going to love Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, the quirky protagonist in American author Elizabeth McKenzie’s utterly charming new novel.

We meet her in California’s Palo Alto, at the moment of her engagement to neuroscientist Paul Vreeland, spied on by a squirrel. 

As the tale unfolds, and they plan their wedding, we’re introduced to the supporting cast of their lives — neurotic mum and mentally ill father (Veblen), hippy parents and brain-damaged brother (Paul) and taken back to their childhoods, to find out how they became the eccentric 30-somethings they are.

McKenzie gently teases out what makes this pair tick, as individuals melding their identities into a couple, making them some of the most acutely drawn characters I’ve ever read.

A true joy of a book.

The Portable Veblen

Elizabeth McKenzie

4th Estate, €17.00 ebook, €11.15


The Regal Cinema in Youghal, Co Cork, first opened its doors in 1936. Director John Huston used it as a base to review footage while filming Moby Dick in the town.We Show Films: ‘I once found a full rotisserie chicken in the cinema’

The biennial festival in Cork produced another unique feast of fine music and good vibes.Sounds from a Safe Harbour brings fine music and good vibes to Cork

Here are five things to check out in the week ahead.5 things for the week ahead

You have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a ship to Ireland. You are tired and hungry and desperate to deliver your expensive cargo to port.Islands of Ireland: Horse, trading, and Drishane

More From The Irish Examiner