Book review: Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary

5 Jan

montpelier paradeHer house is on Montpelier Parade: just across town, but it might as well be a different world. Working there on the garden one Saturday with his father, Sonny is full of curiosity. Then the back door eases open and she comes down the path toward him. Vera.

Chance encounters become shy arrangements, and soon Sonny is in love for the first time. Casting off his lonely life of dreams and quiet violence for this new, intoxicating encounter, he longs to know Vera, even to save her. But what is that Vera isn’t telling him?

Unfolding in the sea-bright, rain-soaked Dublin of early spring, Montpelier Parade is a beautiful, cinematic novel about desire, longing, grief, hope and the things that remain unspoken. It is about how deeply we can connect with one another, and the choices we must also make alone.

Montpelier Parade is Karl Geary’s debut novel and it certainly made an impact on me. This novel is written in second person narrative – an unusual perspective in literature and not one that I’ve come across often but after a few pages of getting used to it I discovered that I liked it and the way that it drew me into the story but also gave a feeling of distance from the events and actions of the main character Sonny – it was nice, as a reader, to be engaged in a different way.

Sonny is a sixteen year old schoolboy and Karl Geary has pitched his voice perfectly as he grapples with his dreary life in Dublin; his inability to fit in, his large family (six older brothers) and his desire to escape and make something more of his life. Although set in the 1980s, Montpellier Parade has a timeless quality to it and I found that I warmed to Sonny straight away. Sonny’s inner narrative is truthful and often conflicted and I had a lot of sympathy for him. This is very much a coming of age novel with Sonny experiencing the highs (first love) and lows (first loss) that life has to offer.

Supporting characters are seen completely from Sonny’s perspective and I found his relationship with his parents heart-breaking and intriguing – particularly his growing distance from his mother and his attempts to gain approval from him distant Father. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Sonny turns elsewhere looking for love, leading to the introduction of Vera – the main female character in the novel.

Vera is again seen entirely from Sonny’s perspective and I  liked how this slowly revealed more of her character to me as a reader. Vera is much older than Sonny and their relationship is not conventional but it is beautifully written. Sonny discovers much about himself through his relationship with Vera and his life opens to new experiences and horizons. Vera surprised me and although her story is painful to watch unfold, I wanted to keep reading to uncover the reasons for her pain.

In contrast to Vera’s mystery and complexity, the other woman in Sonny’s life,  Sharon is much easier for Sonny to read. Sharon is a similar age to Sonny and fulfils a friend/sister/girlfriend shaped gap at different points through the novel. Sonny and Sharon’s conversations provided a little light relief in a novel that often made my heart heavy.

Montpelier Parade is one of those books that requires reflection and I’ve kept coming back to it and considering it since I finished reading it. I’d love to suggest it to my book club as I think it would prompt some interesting discussions and I’d love to know what happens to Sonny next. Karl Geary is a name to watch and I look forward to reading more from him.

4/5

Montpelier Parade is released today (5th January) in hardback, ebook and audio formats by Harvill Secker.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

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