BY KARL GEARY
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We chose this book as it makes an interesting comparison to Julian Barnes’s The Only Story as both are about a young man’s relationship and infatuation with a damaged older woman. Although the circumstances are very different, some of the same themes run through each novel and both are very tragic and disturbing in their own way.
Set in the '80s, Sonny is a troubled teenager from a working class family in Dublin who meets Vera when he works on her house in smarter Montpelier Parade. He becomes besotted with this fragile beautiful older woman and what lies beneath the sadness and pills she hides behind.
The vulnerability of both Sonny and Vera is at times overwhelming. Sonny drinks himself into oblivion, bunks off school, gets himself into trouble and hangs out with a school drop-out called Sharon. Whenever there is a glimpse that things might go better for him, the constraints of his family and surroundings block his path. Vera is wealthy, well educated and yet finds herself drawn to the attention Sonny shows her.
We found this book tougher and darker than The Only Story. The hopelessness of living in poverty during 1980s Dublin is at times shocking and the lack of opportunity for someone in Sonny’s shoes is heart-breaking to observe.
Montpelier Parade paints vivid and poignant pictures of the everyday, whether it be the blue sofa in Vera’s House, to Sonny’s mum always at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes. This is an impressive debut novel from the Irish author Karl Geary and the pace and length of the novel is perfect allowing us to be caught up in their claustrophobic world, feeling the chapters closing in on us.
Great quick read with plenty of tension and action to discuss in the group. And we couldn’t help but wish if things could have been different for these two people trapped in their own constraining circumstances.
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