We talked to Lisa McInerney about her longlisted novel, The Glorious Heresies.
One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…
The Desmond Elliott Prize judges said: ‘Morality tale, diabolical comedy or tragedy of errors? All of these and more, for here is ambition unconfined: a multi-storied edifice, gritty, witty and wise, linguistically dazzling and metaphorically intoxicating. Lisa McInerney may have graffitied with cacophonous colours the pretty Irish façade but she has gifted us in its place a symphony in concrete music which sings with internal harmonies.’
Describe your book in one sentence
The lives of five misfits collide when one of them, a grandmother with a dodgy moral compass, accidentally kills an intruder to her home by whacking him over the head with a tacky religious ornament.
How does it feel to be longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize?
There are so many bafflingly good debuts published every year, so to be part of that Desmond Elliott Class of 2016 is at once gratifying and humbling.
Why do you think a prize for a first novel is important?
It’s important for both author and reader. I think it’s massively meaningful to the author, in terms of it being confirmation that we’re on the right path, that we’re doing the right thing, that we have something of worth to say. After months or years in that obsessive, private writing space, it makes your head spin in the best way. And for the reader it gives a fantastic starting point for discovering new voices, and maybe even a new favourite book!
What is your favourite debut novel?
It turns out a lot of my favourite novels are debuts: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. I’ve been in love with the mighty Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte since I was a kid, though of course that was (woe!) an only novel.
What’s the book you are recommending right now?
Another debut, as it turns out: Rachel B Glaser’s Paulina and Fran: it’s about obsessive friendship, it’s got an almost otherworldly, whimsical tone, it’s bloody funny, it’s joyfully mean and it’s peculiarly moving.