I have managed to knock another tome from atop the teetering peaks of Mount TBR!
Today I present to you Brilliant by Roddy Doyle, a delightfully Irish bit of middle grade fiction, dealing with depression – both psychological and economic – and its insidious effects, with a touch of magical realism. I spotted this one a while back and was taken in by its enticing cover and promise of mental health related content. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
When Uncle Ben’s Dublin business fails, it’s clear to Gloria and Raymond that something is wrong. He just isn’t his usual cheerful self. So when the children overhear their granny saying that the Black Dog has settled on Ben’s back and he won’t be OK until it’s gone, they decide they’re going to get rid of it. Gathering all their courage the children set out on a midnight quest to hunt down the Black Dog and chase it away. But they aren’t the only kids on the mission. Loads of other children are searching for it too, because the Black Dog is hounding lots of Dublin’s adults. Together – and with the help of magical animals, birds and rodents – the children manage to corner the Black Dog …but will they have the courage and cleverness to destroy the frightening creature?
Regular followers of this blog would know that I adore a good bit of UK fiction, and if it’s aimed at a young audience, then that’s even more reason to rejoice. It’s not often though, that I come across an Irish fiction novel that is so quintessentially Irish. Prepare yourselves now for stereotypically twee cooing over the wonderfulness of the Irish and their Irishness.
I could not help laughing and laughing at the dialogue in this book. Not because it’s hysterically funny, but because it’s so delightfully, drolly, mirthful. Observe this exchange between the protagonists’ parents (and their granny, chipping in alzheimically at the end):
“Is there anything worth watching on telly?”
“Your man is on.”
“That fella who used to be on the other thing. That fella with the hair. You know him.”
“Ah, you do.”
“I don’t. What about his hair?”
“It’s not his. It’s a rug.”
“I’m not watching him.”
Honestly, it’s just brilliant. And obviously, I had the whole story narrated by Ardal O’Hanlon in my head which upped the mirthfulness by the power of one million. If they don’t get Ardal O’Hanlon to voice the audio book, it will be a travesty.
In fact the linguistic patterns of English-speakers in Dublin are key to the plot of this book. I won’t spoil it for you, except to say that as a reader with a non-preference for magical realism, the magical realism in this book is deftly done.
I feel like I’m rambling a bit with this review, but I suspect it’s the lingering after-effects of reading this book. It really is a surreal adventure that will have your head spinning by the end with the wonder of it.
And the silliness of it.
And the seriousness of it.
And the brilliant Irishness of it.
It’s even got a real life vampire.
I’d definitely recommend this to any readers of middle grade fiction looking for something with a voice all its own.
Although I wouldn’t recommend choosing it as a read-aloud unless you’re proficient in the accent of a Dubliner.
Until next time,