Review: The Sinners’ Bell by Kevin Casey
Casey's debut is an unflinching portrayal of small-town Ireland
File image of Kevin Casey. The Sinners’ Bell is an unflinching portrayal of the misery in which so many Irish people existed. Photographed in 2009 by Kenneth O’Halloran
The Sinners’ Bell
Kevin Casey’s first novel, originally published in 1968 by Faber & Faber, and republished now by the Lilliput Press, is terrifically good. Its depiction of what small-town Ireland used to be like, and its unflinching portrayal of the shuttered and pinched misery in which so many ordinary people existed rather than lived, is a terrifying reminder of a land where suspicion, jealousy, fear, puritanism and ignorance ruled.
The story is simple enough, centred on a young couple embarking on marriage, he the misogynistic, angry, spoilt only son of a shotgun marriage, she the only daughter of a widower dad.
Conjugal duties brutally consummated in a seedy London hotel, the couple return home to his parents’ unhappy home and deadbeat pub; wretchedness, deceit, alcoholism ensue.
Praise the Lord that so much has changed in Ireland since, with the pleasures of life once so verboten – love, sex, money, travel, creative expression, cupcakes – now centre stage.
Next time someone opens their gob in misty-eyed reminiscence of the good old days hand them this book, light the blue touchpaper and stand clear.