Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies

Why read this book?

Lisa McInerney’s first novel The Glorious Heresies was published in 2015. This year it won the Bailey Prize for Womens’ Writing, and the Desmond Elliot Prize. It has been described as, ‘spectacular,’ ‘fizzing,’ ‘impressive and imaginative,’ and, in my favourite grab from The Financial Times, ‘McInerney’s cynical voice is pitch-perfect for a community left behind by a Church that has done its damage and a Celtic Tiger that has made a dash for the airport…this is a rich, touching, hilarious novel.’

Who is the author?

Lisa McInerney is a young Irish woman (born 1981). In 2006 she was living in a Galway council estate when she started blogging about life there. Her blog Arse End of Ireland gained her the name The Sweary Lady, and was her own cynical take on real life in that world. It was nominated for Best Blog at Irish Blog Awards three years in a row. She no longer maintains her blog.

What’s it about?

The Glorious Heresies is set in the territory McInerney knows well, the world of drugs and booze in a crime riddled Cork. Her characters include a crime boss who can’t say no to his mother, a fifteen year old drug dealer (and consumer) who is in the tender flush of first love, his violent father, Georgie veering from drugs and prostitution to temporary salvation with a Christian sect, and the fearless woman on a mission, the invincible Maureen. The action takes place over a five-year period and gradually all these lives become entwined.

What did we think?

We were enthralled, engrossed, on tenterhooks, hoping against hope that at least one of the characters could escape the morass of self-destructive behaviour. Even the most loathsome characters enlist our sympathy because McInerney shows us their whole lives, their inner thoughts and motivations. Her range is wide, from the poetic diatribes of Maureen,

…The Church craves power above all things, power above all of the living. The Church has an ideal and it’ll raze all in its way to achieve it. The Church needs its blind devout. Your mother, my mother, the people in there plumping Father Fiddler’s ego, they’re all for it…

To Jimmy the crime boss’s take on life

…Cowardice was nobody’s darling. So much of a man was stripped away when notice was being given of his demise; it was no surprise to see them cry and beg and empty their bladder over their shoes, but it was an ugly thing. What use was a man who couldn’t stand up straight to face up to his mortality?

And a man disposing of a body

…He sat for ten minutes in the bobbing dinghy wondering how…he was going to get her in the boat. He managed it through the devil’s favour. He found rope and trussed the dinghy tight to the stern and dragged her into the fishing boat with the strength of desperation….and set sail, believing with every passing second that he was heading to his doom, to the unforgiving open sea, to the end maybe…

And then there is the world of the young and their sex and drug use which has its own distinctive language. McInerney knows this world well and the young characters are completely convincing, so destroyed by their families, and so headlong in their rush to repeat this destruction.

The Glorious Heresies speaks in a remarkable authentic voice, both funny and tragic, immensely gripping, unsparing in its naming of our inhumanity to one another. Is there a tiny little flicker of hope in all this chaos? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Who should read this book?

Do read it if you want to read a funny, horrifying, unsparing look at sex, youth, drugs crime and betrayal, and the downside of modern Irish society

Don’t read it if you are upset by explicit sex, explicit drug use, obscene language, anti religious views or violence.

A gripping read.




5 thoughts on “Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies

  1. Is it exceptional? Explicit sex, explicit drug use, obscene language. I’ll take the explicit sex but written in beautiful English.

  2. It is different in that none of the explicitness is gratituitous, but serves to give a true portrait of lives in a certain place and time. And the writing is excellent.

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