Pat and the Eason Book Club read 'Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan'

"There's this bit... where they're in a barn... and they're having it off!"

Eason Book Club, Easons, Pat Kenny, Mary ORourke, Brian Kennedy, Katherine Lynch, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, Ruth Gilligan

[Atlantic Books]

Guest host Jonathan Healy was in the hot seat for July’s meeting of the Eason Book Club in Newstalk’s Dublin studios. He took a moment to familiarise himself with the regular panel of Katherine Lynch, Mary O’Rourke and Brian Kennedy, advising them he’d been warned by Pat Kenny to watch out for their behaviour. “One of you is more gobby than the others, I’ve been told,” Jonathan said, to which the panel replied by pointing fingers at each other.

This month, the panel tackled the new novel from Irish writer Ruth Gilligan. Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan takes place in three different time periods. In 1901 Cork, a Jewish family fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe mistake their last stop on this side of the Atlantic for New York. Ruth is convinced that this new and accidental life in Cork is just a temporary problem till her father finally writes that play of his and the family can continue on to America.

In 1958, the mute Shem has been handed over to the care of Catholic nuns as his mother struggles to care for him. The weight of loneliness and the secret he carries exerts its toll on him, but at least his silence offers some protection to the one person he loves.

And in 2013, Irish emigrant Aisling came to London to escape the dismal Irish economy, and never reckoned on falling in love with a part-time magician. While marriage is on the card stuffed somewhere up his sleeves, the demands that he marry a Jew means Aisling must come to terms with her own heritage. Can Ruth and Shem’s stories influence her own?

The panel uniformly loved the book, with Brian Kennedy opening the continuous flow of praise. “This book is excellent. It tells the story of the most extraordinary gene pool that spreads out through Ireland, through Cork, the generations of this family. The devastations they encounter, the joys they encounter. The love, the hate, the loss. From 1901 to 1958, through to the present day in 2013.”

Warning Mary O’Rourke off dropping the spoilers she’s prone to leave clanging live on air, the former government minister was struck by the quality of the writing and the emergence of Gilligan as a confident voice in Irish literature.

While Katherine Lynch shared Mary’s sentiments, caller Carol Merriman and the other members of her book club were less enthused. Spanning both the north and south of Dublin, stretching from Malahide to Goatstown, the ladies found the beginning of the book difficult to acclimate to.

“Hmmm, it was interesting to listen to the panel talking about it,” Carol said. “We didn’t love it, I think it’s the kind of book that merits at least two readings. We found the beginning a bit confusing, three different stories to take account of. Once it got going we thought it was okay. We liked the way she played with words, but some of the girls thought she was trying to be a bit too clever.”

Next month’s Eason Book Club will take place on Thursday, August 25th, and the book choice will be made by Brian Kennedy live on air on Monday. He’ll choose from the following four titles: Matthew Griffin’s Hide, Louisa Thomsen Brits’ The Book of Hygge, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, and Phyllis Whitsell’s Finding Tipperary Mary.

Tune into The Pat Kenny Show on Monday to hear which book Brian chooses. You can listen back to today’s Eason Book Club in the podcast below.

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