Normal Sheeple review: Latest in Ross O’Carroll Kelly series is as sharp as ever

Charles O Carroll-Kelly has become Taoiseach and Ross bonds with his mother

Paul Howard and the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly statue in Dublin City Centre. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Paul Howard and the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly statue in Dublin City Centre. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sat, Aug 21, 2021, 06:00


Book Title:
Normal Sheeple


Paul Howard


Guideline Price:

This latest chapter of the Ross O’Carroll Kelly series brings it up to date. Howard’s satire is as sharp as ever, with a parallel Ireland existing more concretely in this latest book, which sheds interesting lights on the real Ireland. This is a world where the housing crisis is solved by homedrobes (the size of a hotpress) and vampire beds (people sleeping upright).

Ross is now a grandfather and ends up in Kerry playing Gaelic football and meeting a Sally Rooneyesque Irish teacher called Marianne. Given the lack of pomade, his own hair turns into a curly fringe, so the Normal Sheeple title takes flight in the book. The awkward dialogue between the two is as good a pastiche of Normal People (book and TV series) as I have seen. Ross in Kerry is very funny, as he describes the talk before the game as ‘like listening to the Seoiges with drink on them’.

Charles O Carroll-Kelly has become Taoiseach, has moved to Áras an Uachtaráin, with Michael D Higgins and Sabina relegated to living in the attic and surviving on baked beans and toast. Charles is pressing ahead with Irexit and is busily selling off afforestation and Ireland’s riches (Newgrange is moving to Gorky Park in Moscow), as well as cosying up to Vladimir Putin.

‘The Taoiseach of the country should live in the country’s finest house! I remember the late, great Chorles J. Haughey telling me that one night in Le Coq Hardi, when he stopped by our table to joke about Garret FitzGerald’s money troubles while trying to look down your mother’s top! Oh, wonderful times!’

The overall plot of the series develops in this book, and as ever, Howard keeps the reader off balance by developing seemingly flat characters into whole new levels of complexity. Ross and his mother bond in this book - a real character development - and their connection is real and seems lasting. There is a poignancy to the Ross-Fionnuala connection here, as there is to his relationship with his daughter, Honor. The book is worth buying for the image of Vladimir Putin alone, while the chapter titles ‘Dingle White female’ and ‘a Pain in the Áras’ are both witty and intersubjective.

A triumph that, as ever, leaves the reader wanting more.