The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

From reading the blurb of The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney I was under the impression that Maureen, an OAP who kills an intruder in her home, would be narrating the story. I read the first chapter which explains how Maureen killed Robbie O’Donovan when she finds him in her house and her son, local criminal and all round bad egg, Jimmy enlists his partner in crime, Tony, to help clear up the mess.

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The story evolves following on from these actions and we learn of Tony’s gangster lifestyle and bringing up his children who follow in their ol’ Pa’s footsteps. Ryan, Tony’s nineteen year old son has already had a spell in prison for dealing drugs but this has not put him off dabbling in substances again.

His girlfriend, Karine, sadly is the type of girl we all know – she believes she can change Ryan’s behaviour and be his saviour. Whilst he does adore her as she tries to make a life and career for herself Karine cheats on Ryan whilst he’s in prison and once he finds out she’s done the deed he gets his revenge by doing the same. Karine tries to get him out of the criminal underworld but has little success.

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Georgie and Robbie were high school sweethearts and sadly their relationship is brought to an untimely end though Robbie’s murder. Georgie is a mess and turn to prostitution and finds herself pregnant. Throughout the whole novel she tries to turn her life around and believes she will by making a better life for her daughter but she never quite manages it due to the negative influences around her.

The character’s stories do interlink as Georgie seeks answers from Tony and Ryan to Robbie’s whereabouts however I was reading about ten pages at a time before falling asleep so found it hard to get really involved in the story and to understand the characters.

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For me it’s not a book I am going to remember and I felt at times the crime and actions of those committing the illegal activities did not seem realistic. It was as though someone had written a stereotypical account of crime and the gangster lifestyle rather than what actually happens. Sadly this book was not as enjoyable as I had hoped.

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve read it. I read it in 2015 and when I see it on my book shelf I get that warm contented feeling. Half of a Yellow Sun by Adiche is easily equal to Americanah in that it’s thought provoking and leaves you with a thousand questions about the world we live in.

 

Set during the civil unrest in 1960s Nigeria, Olanna and Kainene are sisters and grow up in a well to do family. Never having had the issue of wondering where their next meal is coming from the sisters have an idyllic childhood but their adult lives take different paths.

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Olanna gives up her privileged lifestyle to live with Odenigbo, a rich university lecturer, who many view as cold and opposing. For the beautiful Olanna she is enchanted by Odenigbo’s political views and support of the Biafra.

 

Kainene, is not as strikingly beautiful as her sister, which is a tag she has to live with throughout her life. Also very politically minded she is very heavily involved in Nigeria’s social scene and meets Richard, an English writer who immediately falls for her. While it’s clear that Richard loves her more than she does, Kainene’s feelings for him do become more apparent throughout the novel. The sister’s parents however feel both their children could have done better in choosing their partners although this is not openly discussed.

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The novel changes when Odenigbo has an affair and becomes a father. Wanting nothing to do with the child, the biological mother is happy to let Olanna bring the child up as her own. So distraught with what has happened, Olanna has a moment of passion with Richard which causes a rift which plays out over years between the sisters.

 

Ugwa is Odenigbo’s servant and his chapters act as a clear indication between the rich and poor. Ugwa, once in his master’s care is taught how to read and write and along with Olanna, they treat him as their own.

 

When civil war strikes between Nigeria and the uprising political movement of Bifra, Olanna and Odenigbo go from well off to starving,  as they have to leave their home, their jobs and their dignity behind. Refugee camps are set up all over the country and people are dying of starvation. Adiche’s portrayal of the event is raw and all consuming. You feel as though you are there with the characters from Ugwa being captured to fight in the army, to Olanna trying to make a family meal with the pitiful amount of food she has for the rations she’s given.

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The sisters come together in war and Kainene runs a refugee camp. The roles are immediately reversed and it’s Kainene who is now the strong one, leading the fight in the civil war. One day Kainene crosses the boarder to get food but doesn’t return. Olanna and Odenigbo who now live in Richard and Kainene’s house wait and wait and a distraught Richard does everything he can to try and find her. A few days after she’s missing the civil war is announced as over but still there’s no sign of Kainene and as the novel closes we tragically have to assume she is dead.

 

The novel is grisly, there’s no painting over the act of war, people’s heads are blown off, people are captured and made to fight but all through this there is a sense of togetherness and hope. Adiche is a fantastic storyteller and again puts women at the heart of her novel.