The Nacullians: Families as another brick in the wall

Craig Jordan-Baker explores a migrant Irish bricklayer and his clan with metafictional flair

Craig Jordan-Baker does a fine job of homing in on the trauma and tensions in family life.

Craig Jordan-Baker does a fine job of homing in on the trauma and tensions in family life.

“People eat their dinner, just eat their dinner, and all the time their happiness is taking form, or their lives are falling apart.” Chekhov’s quote on ordinary life, unfolding in that most complex of units – the family – comes to mind when reading Craig Jordan-Baker’s debut novel The Nacullians. Centred around the lives of the titular family, working-class, second-generation Irish immigrants in England, the book depicts the ups and downs of one clan over three generations.

The best books on family embrace the messiness at the heart of it – a subject that makes for compelling storytelling across genres. Recent examples in contemporary Irish fiction include Marian Keyes’s Grown-Ups, Liz Nugent’s Our Little Cruelties and Anne Enright’s Actress. Exploring family, whether that’s the large extended family of Keyes’s epic novel, the fraught fraternal relationships at the heart of Nugent’s, or the nuanced mother-and-daughter bond in Actress, means exploring the connections between people who share the same blood and history, who are of each other in a way that binds.

The Irish Times
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