29 November 2017, The Tablet

Modern Greek

by James Moran


Alan McMonagle
(Picador, 320 PP, £12.99)
Tablet Bookshop price £11.70 • tel 01420 592974

This is the first novel from Galway-based writer, Alan McMonagle, and is written with a memorable and disturbing ­brilliance. The book revolves around an 11-year-old protagonist called Jason, as he self-harms, runs riot in a nameless Irish town and struggles to cope with his unbalanced mother, a woman with a fondness for joyriding but with little apparent care for her only son.

The narrative is propelled forward by a series of questions. Where and who is Jason’s father? Who is the mysterious and seemingly nameless girl who follows the young protagonist around, and what does she want? And after the opening section, where exactly is Jason’s mother? Will she ever come back?

Such questions are interlaced with the quests of ancient Greece. Most obviously, Jason shares his name with the leader of the Argonauts. The book’s title is also the name of Odysseus’ island home. The young protagonist believes that his mother has run away to Paris. And the local stylist’s salon is called “Beauty by Helen”.

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