Review: The Sinners’ Bell by Kevin Casey

Casey's debut is an unflinching portrayal of small-town Ireland

The Sinners’ Bell
The Sinners’ Bell
Author: Kevin Casey
ISBN-13: 9781843516705
Publisher: Lilliput Press
Guideline Price: €13

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.