Review – The Thing About December by Donal Ryan


Today I’d like to introduce you to Donal Ryan’s novel The Thing About December. I have the hardcover edition, but there’s a new, very beautiful paperback edition that was released last week. Donal Ryan’s first book The Spinning Heart was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and won the Guardian First Book Award in the same year.

Also, thank you Iris from Leseerlebnis for this wonderful gift!

The Thing About December
Image provided by Transworld Publishers¹:
Synopsis quoted from Transworld Publishers¹:

‘He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn’t hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy’s voice. But you’d have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.’

While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns.
Set over the course of one year of Johnsey’s life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is.

My Thoughts:

Donal Ryan set his novel in a village in contemporary Ireland. Large parts of the story take place on Johnsey Cunliffe’s farm which is so lonely it sometimes resembles a still life.

In The Thing About December, we follow one year in the life of the main character Johnsey Cunliffe. Johnsey is a lonely young man with a job he doesn’t like, less than a handful of people he can count on and a lot of problems coming his way. I was instantly able to connect to Johnsey. He is a very sweet man who knows much more than people seem to notice.

Donal Ryan doesn’t use standard English to tell Johnsey’s tale, so some passages might be hard to read for those who aren’t native speakers of English. The language however, reduces our distance to Johnsey to a minimum and helps us to empathize with him. Throughout one year, we get to know the intimate thoughts of a man whom we would probably just pass on the street. The Thing About December will leave you thinking about all the lonely people spending day after day within their four walls and it will make you cherish your friends and family even more. A wonderful novel for everyone.



2 thoughts on “Review – The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

  1. Sounds like a book that’s perfect for the beginning of autumn (even if it is called The Thing about December). A small village in Ireland, a lonely place. All else you need is a stormy sunday afternoon and a cup of tea. I have to check this one out.


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