Coll, his pregnant wife and child are about to be evicted. But after a violent accident with his landlord, he is forced to flee from the man’s brutish foreman, John Faller, through the wild bogland of Donegal to a fraught passage across the Atlantic. Finally, the ultimate deadly confrontation occurs on the lawless American frontier.
A former film critic, this is Paul Lynch’s first novel. And his Ireland of 1832 is an incredibly bleak one – for, despite Coll’s yearning for home and family, it often seems like hell is not being on the run, but where he came from. Out of poverty-stricken Donegal, however, life never gets much better.
The language Lynch employs is idiosyncratic – phrases such as “pillar of sun stood up”, “they poured coffee upon tongues parched and whiskey soured” and “put foot upon bog” appear on every page – which may not be to everyone’s liking.
Also, the reasons for Faller’s obsessive hunting of Coll across great distances is never satisfactorily explored. But it is an impressive debut – fast-paced, tragic and grimly evocative. What Lynch does next will be worth watching.