A coming-of-age tale translated by Molly Ringwald – that’s serendipity

Browser reviews: James O’Brien on a world gone wrong; Liam Ó Briain on the Rising

Molly Ringwald: The Pretty in Pink star has translated the new novel by Philippe Besson, Lie with Me.  Photograph:  Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

Molly Ringwald: The Pretty in Pink star has translated the new novel by Philippe Besson, Lie with Me. Photograph: Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

 

Lie With Me

Philippe Besson, translated by Molly Ringwald
Penguin

Being interviewed by a journalist at a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe notices a man walking through the lobby. The uncanny and striking resemblance of this man to a former lover sinks us deep into a clear-sighted and passionate coming-of-age narrative. Detailing in elegant and plain prose the anxious and intense first falling-in-love between two schoolboys, Lie With Me has a tenderness and insight that is reminiscent of the writings of Garth Greenwell. In an unusual serendipity, Besson’s novel is translated by actor Molly Ringwald, star of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, whose unadorned version carries the crystalline lightness of Besson’s work with admirable ease. This novel can be read in a matter of hours, but its impact, like the love affair it details, will echo in the mind. Seán Hewitt

How to Be Right (In a World Gone Wrong)

James O’Brien
WH Allen, £8.99

O’Brien is an exceptional broadcaster with a popular radio phone-in show, and is regarded as something of an antidote in our age of pernicious misinformation and lazy assumptions. This is a meditative offshoot of how he spends his day, engaging with “what” people think, and then digging into the “why”. “There is a distinction between free speech and your speech being free from scrutiny,” he writes, as he exposes non sequiturs on Islamism, LGBT, Trump etc. Chapters are contextualised with transcripts from his show, which makes sense for illustrative purposes, although the reader loses nuances of audio and it can give a padded appearance to a short book. Thankfully, O’Brien’s writing has enough thoughtfulness and vigour in explaining his rationale and blends his own personal story to make up for this. He also provides some memorable lines (Brexit: “more psychological than political”). An engaging extension of someone who throws stones of contention down the darkest wells, hoping that they rattle enough along the way to give splashes of awareness and acknowledgement by those wallowing in disturbing depths of ignorance. NJ McGarrigle

Insurrection Memories

Liam Ó Briain
Ardcrú Books, €18

This is a translation, by Eoin Ó Dochtartaigh, of Liam Ó Briain’s Cuimhní Cinn (originally published in 1951), his memoir of the 1916 Rising. It is arguably the best memoir of the Rising. Ó Briain, who fought under Michael Mallin at St Stephen’s Green, invokes the spirit of that remarkable period in Irish history when, he said, there was “wine in the air” at “a blessed time to be alive and young”. His vivid recreation of scenes, characters and dialogue show that he had the playwright’s gift (he was later a founder member of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe). A graduate in romance languages at UCD, he returned to Dublin in 1914 after a three-year travelling studentship in Germany and joined the Irish Volunteers. He was friendly with Seán MacDiarmada, one of the main planners of the Rising. During that conflict, lack of food was almost as big a worry as the fighting itself. As well as getting insights into well-known figures such as MacDiarmada, Tom Clarke, Mallin and others, we also meet some of the ordinary worker-members of the Citizen Army in these self-effacing, humorous and superbly written recollections. Brian Maye

Say Say Say

Lila Savage
Serpent’s Tail £12.99

Savage writes from an unusual perspective with clarity, intelligence and remove, giving this novel about a young care worker and the two older people she becomes involved with an astute and questioning voice.

Ella cares for 60-year-old Jill who is in the horrors of dementia following a car accident, whilst developing a friendship with Jill’s husband Bryn, once a carpenter but who now labours under years of care and solitude. In Ella’s daily tasks there are the brutal revulsions of the body and the tender ministrations of love. Bryn and Ella’s relationship examines not only ageing and desire, but loneliness, and all the ways in which we try – and fail – to alleviate it, through sex, companionship, religion. A visceral story, with a philosophical heart. Ruth McKee

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