“The Queen of Dirt Island” by Donal Ryan – Book Review

This was a story that explores some little BIG lives. Little in that they are people who did not travel very far, who might not have had the best education, yet BIG in that they lived with love, passion, and strength. Their lives were tragic – yet simultaneously joyful. It was an honour to make their acquaintance.

The book begins with the birth of Saoirse (pronounced Sur-Sha) Aylward. It goes on to encompass her life, the life of her mother Eileen (the Queen of Dirt Island), her Nana Mary (her father’s mother), and Saoirse’s own daughter, Pearl.

The novel was written in chapters that depicted brief vignettes of their lives. Episodes that stand out in a life – times of great loss, great love, great happiness, and great trauma. Honest portrayals of genuine human emotion. Betrayals large and small permeate these chapters, yet the character’s fierce loyalty and deep caring for each other keeps them strong.

Set in the author’s native county in Ireland, the sense of place is strong.

This is a tale of matriarchy, of strong women, of regret, betrayal and spite. Of common mundane dramas that are anything but mundane to the people who are living them.

Skillfully written with beautiful prose that at times had an almost musical cadence. The imagery was sensory, and the characterization strong.  I look forward to reading more by this author in the future. Superior literary fiction. An author you should read.

This is my second time reading this author. You can read my review of his “A Low And Quiet Sea” here.

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Viking/Penguin Random House via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9780593652930 – ASIN: ‎ ‎ B09ZRQN6X9 – 256 pages

Donal Ryan was born near Nenagh, County Tipperary, in 1976. He was a civil servant for many years, and was only able to devote himself to writing from 2014, following the success of The Spinning Heart, the novel he wrote during the evenings of the summer of 2010. Ryan received 47 rejections before finding a publisher. His novels have gathered a great deal of critical acclaim. His first novel, The Spinning Heart (2012), won the Guardian First Book Award and the EU Prize for Literature and Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the IMPAC International Literary Award and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Thing About December (2013), Ryan’s 2015 short story collection A Slanting of the Sun (2015),  All We Shall Know (2016) and From a Low and Quiet Sea (2018) are all published by Lilliput and available in a limited Dublin Edition format, unique to The Lilliput Press. He lives in County Limerick with his wife and two children.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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6 Responses to “The Queen of Dirt Island” by Donal Ryan – Book Review

  1. Carla says:

    Wonderful review, Lynne. I am planning on reading this before the end of the month for Reading Ireland. I love stories with strong women, generational stories and real life stories. I am looking forward to getting to The Queen of Dirt Island.


  2. Pingback: Reading Ireland Month: Opening Week Round Up!

  3. Pingback: It’s Reading Ireland Month 2023!

  4. This does sound good, I have loved some of his books, but the last one I read Strange Flowers wasn’t up to his usual standard for me. This sounds like it could be more my style again, when he’s on form, his novels are wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

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