Legend Press €10.99
In a sleepy town in County Cork, an early morning bus with eight people on board falls into the road. Literally. Nearby underground carparks have, it seemed, weakened the road’s substructure and the weight of the bus simply breaks the road open, like a big hole in a frozen lake. Local journalist Nina is called to the scene, where her ex-husband Tim is the firefighter in charge of the delicate and lengthy rescue operation. The bus driver Richie and a local woman, Aline, born in Lebanon but reared in Ireland, are rescued pretty quickly but others remain trapped on the bus and the nearby river is rising. So is the tension, the rapidly gathering crowd of disaster tourists, the blame within the local Planning Department and the grief of Nina and Tim who previously shared the loss of a baby daughter, their bereavement having blown their marriage apart.
For a debut novel, this is remarkable stuff and I can’t understand why there’s not been more pot-banging and general fuss around its publication in September. I must emphasize that this is not a disaster novel, this is no Airport or Towering Inferno although the tension is palpable and sustained. The author herself described it best in a recent feature in The Examiner when she said: “This isn’t a rescue thriller. The crash is the background for a multi-perspective character driven novel.”
Her multi-perspective novel is scathing at times and the slice of her pen pierces, for instance, the ineptitude and corruption of national and local government figures, the foolish platitudes of the typical wheel-on grief-and-trauma therapist brigade, the sly, quiet and peculiarly Irish brand of xenophobia in our midst, the utter state of the nation. Romantic Ireland is surely dead and gone, leaving behind the likes of Crazy May, who’s lost her home and her mind, left to fumble in the greasy streets in hunger and ignominy (my apologies to Yeats).
But for all its darkness, this novel expresses, in myriad infinitesimal ways, the endurance of the human spirit and its proclivity for transcendence and survival. There’s a second novel due out from Gráinne Murphy in 2021 and I’ll be watching out for it.