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Book Review

The Thing About December

Writer Donal Ryan
The Thing About December

23rd March 2021


Declan Henry

Loved it, loved it and loved it. This is easily the best novel I have read in ages. It was recommended to me by his brother Kevin who commented on its originality. For me, The Thing about December delivers something very unique that Irish people in particular will appreciate. The language, the descriptions, the nuances but most of all the ‘Irish mentality’ draws the reader into the story better than any other Irish novel I have read in recent times. I could use typical descriptions like ‘gripping read’ and ‘page turner’ and both would be true but there is much more about the style and pace of this book that encourages the reader to get lost in Johnsey, the main character.

In today’s politically correct times, Johnsey would be known as somebody with learning difficulties, although the terms he uses to describe himself are far less flattering. But it’s his internal dialogue that makes his story so engrossing and convincing. It takes you on a journey from the death of his parents to dealing with local bullies who attack him in the most brutal way – to neighbours and ‘friends’ who try and trick him into selling his father’s land to make way to build a business development.

In some ways, it’s a typical Irish story but it makes the reader, particularly if you are Irish, to reflect on what it means to be Irish in today’s world. For myself, I have lived away from Ireland for a long time and can be guilty at times of remembering it through rose tinted glasses. But this novel served as a wake-up call – a reminder that there is another side to Ireland, a cruel side. It makes a funny and enjoyable read with its continuous amusing observations from Johnsey. Its believability drew me in and gently reminded me that there is a part of Johnsey in us all. This book comes with my highest recommendation.

© Declan Henry

As a writer, I try to incorporate both sides of humanity into my writing, having learned that life is far from grim and that there is enough kindness, compassion, love and humour to overcome life’s obstacles, regardless of how much misery, abuse, or injustice exists.
Written by Declan Henry


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