We All Die in the End: Scenes from a Small Town by Elizabeth Merry – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Amazon

This is a diverse collection of interlinked stories set in a small, seaside town in Ireland. Some of them verge on the macabre; others deal with abusive relationships and many of them are grim. But there is humour here too – although it is dark humour.

The following excerpts are just a flavour of the characters who people this small town, where everyone knows their neighbours, and everyone else!

SADIE said nothing. She trimmed the fat off the kidneys and the liver, her fingers curling away from the soft, red slither and she held her breath against the faint smell of blood.

So, I watched Lydia and waited for some bloody nuisance of a child to come screeching after her but no child came. Well, that didn’t make any sense but then Lydia stopped and I saw her speak to the doll. Oho, ARTHUR, I said to myself and I threw down the cigarette. Oho, I said, what’s this? What have we here?

ANDY felt the unhappiness grow in his chest again. It was heavy and he fought against it. No, he said to himself. No. He held his arms up and out in front of him and made soft, crooning, engine noises.

ROSEMARY always made Dominic wait outside the door until she was in the bed. He could feel the slackness in her thighs and arms; he didn’t have to look at it as well. ‘Come in,’ she called when she was ready. Dominic bounced into the room half-undressed and dropped his shoes. ‘Wait now,’ he said, and brought in a bottle of red wine and two glasses.

My Review

When Elizabeth Merry, the author of this book, reached out to me through my blog to request that I read and review this novella I was very unsure as to whether or not I wanted to. I was curious as to its content, but I was hesitant due to the dark nature of the themes described in the blurb. But I wanted to support an Irish author and decided to try my luck.

But sadly I think I should have listened to my gut instincts as I am not the right reader for this book at all. It has a number of things that I am not partial to; coarse language, unrelenting darkness, and a narrative that is neither character nor plot driven.

However, there is much to admire in this book. And I would like to give an idea of what kind of reader I think would appreciate it.

The book is divided into what are called scenes, nineteen in total. Scenes that appear to be set in the same town. A town I would assume is in Northern Ireland due to a number of indications from the text [and also the author’s background]

The scenes are loosely interconnected with some characters popping up in the different scene settings. What drives this novel forward rather than specific characters or plot are these scenes, or vignettes if you will. They are snapshots of life… but for the most part they are very dark in tone.

This is rather a subversive read. It focuses on the darkest of thoughts and impulses. None of the characters are ever truly fully developed, but this is a purposeful thing. Because the novel is about revealing dark secrets and thoughts in a quick fashion. It has a very punchy pace and the scenes are delivered in a shockingly snappy fashion. One could say that this novel has an almost choral feel as the voices of the individual characters feel more as one with how their disparate personalities come together to tell the tale of the dark underbelly of their provincial town.

The book calls to mind a recent Irish novel that received much praise in literary circles; The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. Both books focus on small towns and use multiple character perspectives to tell their tale. I think Merry has an equivalent style to Ryan and that fans of his prose and use of colloquial language would very much enjoy this read.

I would also like to add that my personal favourite scene was the one featuring Wee Sadie. She was the character that captured my heart more than any other. I felt for Sadie. I felt her pain at almost sleepwalking through her life. Felt for how she seemingly found things seemingly happen to her rather than being an active participant in her own life story.

So though this novel didn’t tick all my boxes I do feel that in the hands of the right reader this could become a true favourite as Merry has a very interesting and readable narrative voice as an author. Recommended to those that enjoy Irish literature with dark overtones.


*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author via my blog. This review contains my honest thoughts and opinions*

Available now as an eBook through Amazon

7 thoughts on “We All Die in the End: Scenes from a Small Town by Elizabeth Merry – eARC Book Review

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