And ‘snowflakes’ peo­ple an un­even fol­low-up

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS - PA­TRICK KELLEHER

have been a sui­cide af­ter all, his cu­rios­ity is piqued. His nar­ra­tive is dom­i­nated by a de­sire to find out ex­actly what hap­pened to Ned Sweeney all those years ago.

While Un­der The Night does have some merit, the novel is hin­dered by a num­ber of is­sues.

The great­est of these is the dou­ble-per­spec­tive nar­ra­tive it­self. It quickly be­comes clear that Ned’s nar­ra­tive is far more in­ter­est­ing than Ray’s. This is com­pounded by the fact that Ray as a char­ac­ter feels forced and un­der­de­vel­oped, and ul­ti­mately serves as more of a tool to un­spool Ned’s story than any­thing else.

As the novel ap­proaches its end, Ray’s chap­ters be­come a ma­jor hin­drance, and end up feel­ing like a dis­trac­tion from the main event.

Other char­ac­ters in the novel also suf­fer from poor de­vel­op­ment.

While Ned is a rel­a­tively in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter, his wife, Laura, is shal­low and only ever ex­ists on the novel’s pe­riph­ery. By the end of the novel, it be­comes clear that she is a plot con­ve­nience rather than a char­ac­ter in her own right.

Sim­i­larly, Ray’s love in­ter­est, Molly, is par­tic­u­larly hol­low, and seems to only ex­ist to give the novel its ro­man­tic sub-plot. Their re­la­tion­ship may well be the novel’s weak­est mo­ment. Nei­ther are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters to be­gin with, which means that their re­la­tion­ship is ul­ti­mately mun­dane. It doesn’t help that Molly seems to ex­ist only as a cliche of a young per­son. At one point, she even refers to her­self and her younger col­leagues as “snowflakes” and ex­presses shock at what she sees as “old-school” alcoholism.

The novel’s end­ing is also dis- ap­point­ing. Af­ter over 300 pages — some of which could have been trimmed down to cre­ate a leaner, more taut novel — the reader is given a fairly un­sub­stan­tial con­clu­sion with few real an­swers.

That isn’t to say that Un­der The Night is all bad. The novel is some­times grip­ping and there is an ap­peal to Ned’s chap­ters.

Un­for­tu­nately, much of the en­joy­ment is dulled by frus­trat­ing plot de­vel­op­ments, poor char­ac­ters and a chal­leng­ing nar­ra­tive tech­nique.

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