Longlisted for the 2017 Desmond Elliott Prize 'Alan McMonagle possesses a style that is all his own and I found his first novel compelling from start to finish. Read it.' Patrick McCabe, author of The Butcher Boy Ithaca, the ferociously funny and unbelievably poignant debut novel from Alan McMonagle, combines a fiercely emotional story with crackling prose. 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. 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.
The darkly comic story of how far a lonely boy will go to find what he's looking for, and how in searching for what we've lost, we risk losing sight of what we have.
Long-listed for Desmond Elliott Prize 2017 (UK).
Splendid . . . Sweet yet dark, odd yet true. Full of fierce, elegant, misguided longing, and so finely written that I came to care so much about Jason. -- Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither It's a stunner. -- Edna O'Brien For these crazed, corrupt, corrupting times, at last, a voice with the courage to defy them, in prose as precise as it is shattering, Alan McMonagle proves himself to be a magnificent author, one of the best in contemporary fiction. -- Frank McGuinness Its exuberance and punch are beguiling . . . very funny indeed. * Daily Mail * Fast and urgent and full of feeling and savage humour and all kinds of tenderness. -- Kevin Barry, author of City of Bohane Right from its remarkable opening sentence, this extraordinary debut had me hooked. A fierce, funny, on-its-own-terms, beautiful, heartbreaker of a novel. -- Joseph O'Connor Flawless prose and razor dialogue . . . Mesmerising, unforgettable. -- Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart Leaping with wit and moving in ways that are quite impossible to shake off . . . A quest story with the wisdom of an epic and with the whip-smart energy of a brilliantly fresh and audacious new voice. -- Belinda McKeon, author of Solace A fierce and funny novel that tackles tough topics with great imaginative flair . . . Jason's jaunts around town are reminiscent of Francie Brady in The Butcher Boy - young bucks . . . struggling to understand the intricacies and injustices of the grown-up world. * Irish Times * 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 . . . I nearly died laughing, and was exceptionally moved too. * Sunday Independent * Ithaca . . . gifts the reading world with a young voice that is as winningly resilient as it is tragic . . . an internal monologue that crackles with muzzy-headed electricity and sheer spirit . . . One cannot help but think about Pat McCabe's The Butcher Boy and the manner in which it mined the grotesque and distorted out of frolicking abandon. * Irish Independent * Comparisons to Pat McCabe's masterpiece The Butcher Boy abound, as both novels present the reader with brilliantly-formed child protagonists, full of back-alley grit and hilarious, dark narrative . . . Ithaca feels somehow other-worldly yet familiar . . . while McMonagle brings a timeless quality to his writing. It is a story full of humour, sometimes cute and innocent, but often blackened by experiences which Jason is too young to fully comprehend. . . Jason Lowry wins our heart from the very first page . . . Beautifully-crafted writing. * RTE * I loved this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If comparisons with Patrick McCabe's The Butcher Boy (since this story is also unreliably narrated by a protagonist who could be described as a juvenile delinquent) and Donal Ryan's The Spinning Heart (because of thematic similarities) are inevitable, Alan McMonagle has nothing to fear. Ithaca is certainly equal to such comparisons. It is assured and poised, hilarious and poignant, a tour de force. * Dublin Review of Books * This coming-of-age novel . . . could easily be bleak, but it's lifted by McMonagle's dark humour, wry one-liners and direct descriptions . . . Despite Jason's recklessness, it's hard not to be on his side. * Scotsman *
Alan McMonagle has written for radio, published two collections of short stories - both of which were nominated for the Frank O'Connor Award - and contributed stories to many journals in Ireland and North America. He lives in Galway. Ithaca is his first novel.