BOURKE CROSSES THE LINE TO SUCCESS WITH HIS ENGAGING AND SIMPLE DEBUT

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We’ve being doing something sub-consciously for years, then over the past eighteen months or more, we’ve had to get used to doing it almost as a necessity. While also lengthening this simple act by standing two metres apart from the person in front and behind us. What am I talking about? Queuing.

Whether you’re standing at a bus stop, in a supermarket, or a public toilet, we usually form an orderly queue. But when order breaks down, or someone tries to jump the queue, that’s when problems arise. This is usually supressed by a few polite words and an effusive apology from the offender. But when fear, or if there is a perception of missing out on something, and you could look at those images coming out Afghanistan over the past couple of days, or those scenes in the past of men, women and children scrambling over each other to get at items in Black Friday sales, that things can turn bad.  So, it’s in this month’s second book review that the story centres around queuing, its Line by Niall Bourke and published by Tramp Press (www.tramppress.com) in April of this year.

Willard, his mother, and his girlfriend Nyla have spent their entire lives in an eternal procession, as part of The Line.  The Line is a seemingly never-ending queue that stops, starts, and meanders its way across vast plains, up over mountains and in and out of valleys. Daily life in the Line is dictated by the ultimate imperative: obey the rules or lose your place in the line. When, one day Willard returns to his place in the line after visiting Nyla, he finds his mum has died. Among her possessions he discovers a small booklet, unable to comprehend what it means or its refences to Ali-Ben Orkul and The Corporation, he and Nyla decide to break one of the more sacrosanct rules and leave The Line. What answers will they find in the wilderness, cut off from The Line, and who or what are the Corporation and Ali-Ben Orkul?

Over the past number of years, a host of new Irish writing talent has taken it upon themselves to breakdown old traditions and step outside the literary box so to speak. Take Mike McCormack’s award-winning Solar Bones, which is a single sentence stretching over 233 pages and the equally unusual and highly celebrated Milkman by Anna Burns, which I had to put down after 20 pages due to it wrecking my head.

Unlike Burns’ book, I couldn’t put this down. Niall Bourke’s Line is both unusual and amazing in its simplicity. There is also punctuation, as well as seemly intriguing but easy to follow story within these 245 pages.

But I was held by the mystery of this story from page one and kept trying to figure out whether The Line and Willard, his mum and Nyla were part of a wagon train crossing the Americas? Were they and everyone else migrating from Africa to Europe or from South America to North America?  Bourke’s excellent writing style gives no clue and lets you wonder. But every so often, I had to ask myself, is it simpler than that? Are they just on a constant never-ending line? And there you have it, the thing I found most interesting about this book and the story, is the unknown… But then, just when you think you can relax and let the book lead on, Bourke throws in a thesis on queuing!!! Again, this was beautiful and reminded me of the asides that regularly feature is Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, and as a result I was enthralled by the uniqueness and originality of this story.

Niall Bourke (rte.ie)

This is Irish Author Niall Bourke’s (www.niallbourke.com)  debut novel. His work has been published widely in magazines across Ireland and the UK, while his poems and stories have been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Costa Short Story Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. When not writing he is a teacher and lives in London with his wife and daughter.

This book proves that you can make a highly thought-provoking read out of the most mundane things in life and follows hot on the heels of the recent success of fellow Irish debutant writer Jamie O’Connell and his Diving for Pearls, which we reviewed here in June. I hope Niall keeps this up and bases his next book on some equally obscure day to day ritual or maybe he’ll write a sequel.

So, as we enter the latter part of August, and the last vestiges of the school holidays. I urge you to step away from the queue to the bestselling authors as you search for your holiday read and try this brand-new name in Irish literary fiction, that will have you following a new line -the one for his next eagerly anticipated book.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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