14. ‘Red Sky in Morning’ by Paul Lynch

Red Sky in Morning, Paul LynchThe Book:

Coll Coyle is a farmer in 19th century Donegal. He’s just trying to live and support his family – his mother, wife, daughter and unborn child – but the landowner and his son are cruel masters. The book opens on the morning that Coyle and his family are due to be evicted from their home. Coyle goes to bargain with the landowner, but things take a dark turn and Coyle has to abandon his family and run for his life.

‘Red Sky in Morning’ is a book about the chase. Coyle flees, but his steps are dogged at every turn by the sinister Faller and his henchmen. Everyone Coyle meets he endangers because Faller isn’t afraid to maim or kill to get information about his quarry. Eventually Coyle ends up irreversibly far from his home and everything he ever knew, and he has to try and carve out a new place in a world that doesn’t want him.

Of course, Coyle is the character we root for throughout the book. He’s the hero, the essentially good man who has made mistakes, and we will him to escape and find a way back to his family. The landscape also features so heavily that it is almost a character in itself. It seems to have emotions and whims, as well as an ever-changing face.

But my favourite character by far was Faller. He makes a fantastic nemesis, especially towards the end when his character is properly fleshed out. He turns from a fairly straightforward villain into a real, thoughtful man, complete with a philosophy that justifies his murderous actions.

“I’ll tell you, there’s always an agency more powerful than your own. Think about that. The terrible beauty of it. How it lies there unseen waiting for you. Every fate, every life, every story swallowed by forces greater.”

I should also mention the language. You can tell even from the title that this isn’t exactly conventionally written. Instead the text is poetically descriptive, almost lyrical in its unusual phrasing. Lynch makes use of the Irish lilt and local slang, and he also strips his passages of unnecessary words and gives other words new meanings. This makes the book a little harder to read, but wholly worth it. The end result is more than just a book about good vs. evil, man vs. nature or hunter vs. prey. It’s a story of two complex, desperate characters and the greater forces that move them.

“The rain stopped and he heard the birds wake. They blinked and shook their heads and scattered song upon the sky.”

The Background:

This is another book kindly sent to me by The Book Depository. It’s due to be published on 25th April 2013, but you can pre-order your copy from the website now.


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