Archive | February, 2019

Van has finished reading… The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

25 Feb

blood miracles


Does anyone else read in regional accents? Perhaps it’s the frustrated actor in me but when it’s apparent there should be an accent in play I can’t seem to help myself. It’s not something I willingly attempt out loud – even in my head it’s sometimes hard to tell if it’s Sundarbans or Sunderland – but occasionally the voice on the page is undeniably insistent (much to Mrs Van’s recent consternation, Mrs Millwood from Mr Doubler Begins Again was evidently meant to be a soft and comforting Midlands). With Lisa McInerney’s The Blood Miracles it’s bordering on the impossible not to hear the clip and push of the language. I should probably apologise to everyone concerned for unleashing my Irish twang on them, but sure I’ve only meself to forgive in that case. (Chalk it down, I hear someone mumble in the background).

Lisa McInerney’s The Blood Miracles is a delight from start to finish. It tells the story of Ryan (who first appears in McInerney’s debut, The Glorious Heresies), a Twenty year old drug dealer struggling with the complexities of his life. His criminal associates have drawn him deeper into a world his long-time girlfriend still hopes he can leave behind. Things are set to go from bad to worse, of course, and so begins a tense and pacey descent into the darker corners of life in Cork.

The genius in the telling, I think, is in how Lisa McInerney treads such a thin line with Ryan. He’s the kind of person you might look at and think, ‘he’s not a bad kid really’. You might. Faults aplenty, he’s not especially likeable, but there’s something in there. He’s not wilfully dark, not invested in inflicting, though not a stranger to it either, especially when under the influence. The sum of the parts that make him are the real tale that’s told here: his background; his parents – one dead and the other deadbeat; his hamstrung prospects and his limited options. Even so, there’s a glimmer every now and then of the kid he could be, given the chance, and the second master stroke is in McInerney’s choice of people who do give him that chance.


In some ways Lisa McInerney’s The Blood Miracles will be the exact tale you think it’ll be. In other ways it definitely won’t. One thing you can be sure of is that it’s a slice of life as real as any, and the thrill of the pace is all you’ll need to carry you through.


The Blood Miracles was published by John Murray on the 20th April 2017 ISBN:9781444798890

You can find Lisa on Twitter @SwearyLady


Van has finished reading… Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

19 Feb

reservoir 13


What an ominous title. Obviously it had to be the unluckily numbered one, and that together with the opening paragraphs set a tense tone that never really lets you go, even after the last page has been turned. Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 is the story of the disappearance of Rebecca Shaw, a teenager who goes missing while on holiday with her family in the peak district. Except it’s not. To be writerly about it, Rebecca’s disappearance is the inciting incident. It’s already happened as we read the first words and what follows is – not unlike If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things – everything else that happens in the vicinity of that terrible event.

It feels like reportage at first, the prose clipped to the bone, almost telling rather than showing, detail kept strictly to the need-to-know. The village where it happened, its inhabitants and their lives begin to peek through the blanket of fear, of loss, and time begins to assert itself. There’s repetition, chapter by chapter, the seasonal pattern of rural life. The cycle of village life imposes itself on the narrative, and it’s quite the master stroke. The more you learn of the village, the landscape and the people who live there, the more you wonder who knows what, who’s done what…

And to be a little writerly again, Jon McGregor has a true understanding of the power of molossus; I lost count of the number of paragraphs that ended with three stressed words.

(See what I did there).

There’s a lot said about genres of fiction and the desire to subvert them but there don’t appear to be that many novels that genuinely do. As I sit here I’m umming-and-aahing about Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. On the one hand, it sets out in the vein of a mystery or a whodunit: A girl has gone missing and immediately we’re invested either in finding and saving her just in time, or discovering who did what dreadful thing and bringing them to book. On the other hand, it’s Jon McGregor, and that’s not what you tend to think of when you think about his books. Either way, what is evident is that he understands these expectations intimately, and plays the reader every step of the way, hanging us on a hook as he takes a tour through grief and loss in all its quotidian glory. It’s superbly done.


Reservoir 13 was published by 4th Estate on the 6th April 2017 ISBN:9780008204891

You can find Jon on Twitter @jon_mcgregor