I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Donal Ryan latest novel, From a Low and Quiet Sea, today as part of the blog tour. Donal Ryan is an author who is new to me, but this won’t be the last of his novels that I read.
Can you imagine how that would be? If a tree is starving, its neighbours will send it food. No one really knows how this can be, but it is. Nutrients will travel in the tunnel made of fungus from the roots of a healthy tree to its starving neighbour, even one of a different species. Trees live, like you and me, long lives, and they know things. They know the rule, the only one that’s real and must be kept. What’s the rule? You know. I’ve told you lots of times before. Be kind.
From a Low and Quiet Sea is Donal Ryan’s most expansive book to date, partially set in Syria and partially in the familiar territory of rural Ireland.
Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.
Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.
John’s past torments him as he nears his end.
The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.
The idea of seemingly disparate characters who lives are connected or brought together in some way is not a new one, but I thought that it was particularly well done in From a Low and Quiet Sea. The three characters of Farouk, Lampy, and John are connected, and yet the how isn’t revealed until the very end of the novel, and I found the links between them to be quite unexpected. The structure of the novel works brilliantly in this respect, with each character telling their story in turn, before the final section which is told from the perspectives of various secondary characters that the reader meets along the way. This reveals the connections between the three men, but also gives more insight into the the minor characters as well as answering the outstanding questions to bring the novel to a satisfying close.
The three main characters are quite different, and I found their stories to be fascinating in different ways. Farouk’s tale, for me, had the biggest emotional impact, as he and his family leave their homeland behind in a bid to escape the horrors of war. Lampy’s story is one that is quite familiar, as he watches his former classmates graduating from university and beginning careers whilst he continues to work on a cash-in-hand basis and feeling as though his life is going nowhere, his frustration building. John’s story was quite different again, and is one that I found to be particularly intriguing. It is confessional in tone, as John looks back at his past, driven perhaps by a need to atone for his actions. I found it difficult to sympathise with John, but his story is an interesting one.
From a Low and Quiet Sea is a short novel, but I think that it’s one to savour as you get to know each of the characters and their lives, and I loved that Ryan was able to give each of his characters a distinct voice. Exploring themes of loss and grief throughout, this is a relatively short novel that packs an emotional punch, and it is one that will stay with me for some time to come.
From a Low and Quiet Sea was published on 22 March by Doubleday. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour!