Desmond Elliott Prize
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BORD GÁIS ENERGY IRISH BOOK AWARDS 2017
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE
Ithaca, the ferociously funny and unbelievably poignant debut novel from Alan McMonagle, combines a fiercely emotional story with crackling prose.
This was the summer after all the money disappeared. One minute it was here. The next it had vanished. All of it. Without trace . . . Now that all the money had vanished everyone had their eyes and ears ready for all manner of doom.
Summer 2009, and eleven-year-old Jason Lowry is preoccupied with thoughts of the Da he has never known. In the meantime, his vodka-swilling, swings-from-the-hip Ma is busy entertaining her latest boyfriend and indulging her fondness for joyriding.
Jason escapes to the Swamp: a mysteriously rising pool of fetid water on the outskirts of the town. There, he meets the girl, a being as lost as himself, and with even less regard for reality. Together, they conjure exotic adventures - from ancient Egypt to the search for Ithaca, home of Odysseus. But what begin as innocent flights of fancy soon become forays into hazardous territory; the girl is a dangerous (and very committed) partner in crime.
In the media
Its exuberance and punch are beguiling. [Jason's] relationship with his ma is bedevilled by his lack of understanding, his observation of the adult world is often very funny indeed, and there’s a poignancy and depth that give Jason’s odyssey that extra fillip.
A fierce and funny novel that tackles tough topics with great imaginative flair. Ithaca doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is all the more affecting for it . . . Jason’s jaunts around town are reminiscent of Francie Brady in The Butcher Boy – young bucks who are wonderful mimics of adult mannerisms while simultaneously struggling to understand the intricacies and injustices of the grown-up world . . . For Jason and his friend the exotic Ithaca offers refuge and new beginnings. Skilfully meshing imagination with reality, McMonagle sets out to discover if the same things can be found at home. The novel belongs to Jason and his Ma, who, through an epic journey of adversity, manage to find their way back to each other
It's pretty rare to find a rookie novelist writing with such conviction, authority and style. But McMonagle's prose has all three in spades. This is top-notch stuff . . . there is an originality of voice here that I have not come across in Irish fiction for quite some years now. And through the prism of Jason's energetic first-person narrative - that's bursting with black humour, tenderness, and emotion in equal measure - the socially deprived world he is growing up in comes into focus with absolute clarity . . . I nearly died laughing, and was exceptionally moved too, reading this stylish, dark existential tale: which explores the fine line between the language of dreams and reality, and between the material and mythological world too.
It's a stunner.