Saturday, March 17, 2007

As Green As Your Heart

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. So I’ve been sitting here in my green hoodie, trying to figure out what appropriately Irish thing I could share with you to commemorate the day properly at The Rap Sheet. (We’d be happy to haul out a keg of green beer, but our tech dudes point out there’s no effective way of pouring it into the Internet connection. Well ... we can certainly pour it in, but ...)

And then it occurred to me: I just finished reading Christine Falls, by Benjamin Black. And while there are Irish novels and novels by Irish writers, there’s something ultra Irish-feeling about this book, partly because it’s a period piece and partly because a section of Christine Falls takes place in the über-Irish part of Boston. (More Irish than the Irish.)

Fifty pages into Christine Falls, I judged the book overwritten. It seemed to be more about style than substance--more sizzle than steak--and I was tempted to put the book aside. I’m glad I didn’t. By page 100, I couldn’t put it down: I was entranced and enmeshed and otherwise embroiled in Black’s tale, classic Dublin noir--if there was such a thing--set in the 1950s and following the familial misdeeds of a Dublin pathologist we only ever know as “Quirke.” (First name or last? Maybe.) The PR material that accompanied that ARC of Christine Falls indicates that this will be the first entry in the “Quirke series” of books from Black. I’m glad, though I have a hard time imagining what Black will do to top this first effort.

Benjamin Black turns out to be a pen name. It’s an open secret that the Quirke novels are being written by John Banville, who won the Man Booker prize in 2005 for The Sea and who the Sunday Telegraph once referred to as “the heir to Nabokov.”

And what about my lukewarm first impression? On finishing the book I went back to see what I’d seen. It does seem to take a while to embrace Black’s rhythms. His prose is lyrical and vivid and, in Christine Falls, from the first you’re at something of a distance. But wait it out. Stick around. It’s worth it. Mark my words: you’re going to be hearing a lot about Christine Falls this year.


Anonymous said...

I stopped at about page 50 too, but then I gave the book away! Maybe I should try to get it back . . .

Pageturners said...

Oh yes. A fine writer.