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.

KAUFMANN’S DEBUT SKIRTS ACROSS TIME WITH A TALE OF LOVE, LOSS AND EMPOWERMENT

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Prior to the second world war, my grandmother was a lady’s maid in a grand house in the Nottinghamshire countryside. The daughter of a coalminer, she achieved this position, with its travel to London for the season and summer holiday’s on the Dorset coast, by winning a needlework competition. Her winning entry caught the fine Lady’s eye and my great grandparents were asked if she could go ‘into service’. As a 14-year-old, this must have been a daunting proposition. My grandmother certainly became a modern woman, working as a bus conductress in the war and running a ‘chippy’ after. Following the death of her husband in her 50’s, she returned to working with textiles, becoming a cutter and examiner in a local factory.  She was always interested in fashion, never went out without her hair done or her ‘lippy’. I hope to emulate her style, love of travel, independence and joy in life through the rest of mine, especially once I get vaccinated and liberated!

These reminiscences bring me to this month’s final review, its The Dressmaker of Paris by Georgia Kauffmann published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) on the 28th January. This is the story of Rosa Kusttatscher, born in the mountains of Italy and who is forced to flee during the war to Switzerland following a traumatic event. Having discovered a skill and interest in fashion, she moves to Paris. Here as well as developing he career, she finds love. Moving to Brazil, she experiences both tragedy and success. When we meet her in New York, she has found peace and happiness. Her past haunts her still. She has spent a life running, she realises. But now she will run no more.

Each chapter begins with a short vignette about her preparations for an important meeting Rosa is going to. She explains some aspect of her toilette or appearance to the reader in a chatty, informative way. We do not know whom she is addressing, as she just refers to the person as ‘ma chere’ Thereafter, Rosa remembers a period of her life and gradually, through the book, we learn her life story. Usually, the beauty advice related in some way to the period or event that was discussed.  I like these thoughtful markers at each new point in the story. They were useful in tying the parts together and reminding you of the mystery surrounding her appointment that day.

I enjoyed this book immensely. There was always a sense of drama. The wartime scenes were well portrayed. I enjoyed learning a little fashion history during the Paris period. I must admit my favourite portion was the American section and her final marriage. It was lovely, romantic and rather unexpected. I don’t usually like books with beautiful, brilliant women who are too perfect, but Rosa had enough flaws and experienced enough troubles to have me rooting for her. I’m not a chick lit fan either but this had enough grit, history and great characters to keep me enthralled. It was a book I looked forward to picking up at the end of a busy, messy and unfashionable day!

Georgia Kaufmann

This the debut novel of English author Georgia Kaufmann (www.georgiakaufmann.com).After studying Social Anthropology and Demography in Cambridge, she travelled widely, living in numerous places beginning with the letter B, Brussels, Brighton and Boston, to name a few. She now lives within cycling distance of central London with her husband, two daughters and a cat.

This book is a journey through time. The threads of love, loss, fashion, female emancipation and the importance of family were woven deftly into a sweeping story.  It can’t be read without a sigh, a few tears and the odd smile. An ideal escape from lockdown woes, I recommend you cut a dash to your local online book supplier now.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what the others thought visit their sites listed below. Then, if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really love the feedback.