Karl Geary’s Montpelier Parade was one of my favourite reads of 2017.
Montpelier Parade Synopsis :
The house is on Montpelier Parade: just across town, but it might as well be a different world. Working on the garden with his father one Saturday, Sonny is full of curiosity. Then the back door eases open and she comes down the path towards him. Vera.
Chance meetings become shy arrangements, and soon Sonny is in love for the first time. Casting off his lonely life of dreams and quiet violence for this new, intoxicating encounter, he longs to know Vera, even to save her. But what is it that Vera isn’t telling him?
Unfolding in the sea-bright, rain-soaked Dublin of early spring, Montpelier Parade is a beautiful, cinematic novel about desire, longing, grief, hope and the things that remain unspoken. It is about how deeply we can connect with one another, and the choices we must also make alone.
(Penguin Random House UK, Harvill Secker)
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In her review for The Guardian, Claire Kilroy (author of The Devil I Know ) has described Montpelier Parade as an auspicious debut. High praise indeed from such a talented author, but wholeheartedly deserved in my opinion.
Geary’s decision to write in a second-person narrative voice, or more specifically have his protagonist and the story’s only narrator Sonny use the second-person to refer to himself, is something I have rarely experienced in fiction.
Your mother didn’t say anything when you came in, though you knew she felt you there. You opened one cupboard after another, peered inside, but really you were watching her. Finally you sat at the table. She was old, your Ma. You were the youngest, and she was old.
It felt jarring at first; my mind struggled against it in an attempt to get my bearings. But a few pages in it all just seemed to click into place, and I realised what a master stroke that decision was. This narrative framework has allowed Geary to not only evoke powerfully Sonny’s feelings of isolation, but cement an unbreakable bond with the hearts and minds of readers while subtly developing a darker, simmering tension.
Then enter the catalyst for Sonny’s coming-of-age, the enigmatic Vera.
She wasn’t old at all, not in the way you’d expected, it surprised you, but she wasn’t young either. She was beautiful. ‘Oh,’ she says, noticing you beside your father. Her eyes were green and worn in, like she was watching from a big room behind them.
Throughout Montpelier Parade Geary’s quiet descriptions poignantly capture the wonder and awe of youth carrying the burden of poverty. He also taps into a compelling awareness of characters’ physicality and his narrator’s awkwardness and timidity in response.
Principal Burke took his position behind the desk; he was a big man and seemed frustrated with his own lumbering movement. It seemed a private thing, so you did not look up at him until he was finished sitting.
Of Geary’s skilful realisation of marginalised characters, Sarah Gilmartin of The Irish Times notes similarities with that achieved by fellow Irish author Donal Ryan in his debut The Spinning Heart. While I admired the rawness and impact of the approach taken by Ryan, I feel Geary’s judicious balance of class loyalty and fatalism with Sonny’s desire and drive to walk his own path has realised something all can connect with.
The prose within Montpelier Parade is itself a thing of beauty – and for that alone I would recommend this novel. But it is Geary’s characters’ capacity to be buoyed by glints in darkness and this story’s moving denouement that elevate it to the truly memorable.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Genre: Romance, Literature, Drama, Mystery
About the Author, Karl Geary
Karl Geary was born in Dublin, and moved to New York City at age sixteen. He has worked as a script writer (Coney Island Baby), and an actor (Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet, and Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall), and has adapted and directed Dorothy Parker’s ‘You Were Perfectly Fine’ for the screen. He also co-founded music venue Sin-e and later the Scratcher in New York City’s East Village. He now lives in Glasgow with his wife and daughter.
- Listen to this Vintage podcast ‘2017 New fiction: Karl Geary on his debut Montpelier Parade‘
- Karl Geary’s Book Notes music playlist for this novel
- One of our Best Books of 2017 So Far
Other reviews of Montpelier Parade
* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.