Thursday, September 26, 2013

New This Month: The River and Enoch O’Reilly by Peter Murphy

In its review of Peter Murphy’s second novel (after his Costa shortlisted debut, John the Revelator) The Spectator evoked the surreal realism that is The River and Enoch O’Reilly (Mariner). “This book is majestic and squalid at the same time,” Aime Williams wrote for The Spectator, “as if the Bible were actually about Elvis.”

The River and Enoch O’Reilly was published in January in the UK as Shall We Gather at the River. Whatever name it is flogged under, the work is assured, poignant and slyly funny.

The title’s Enoch has chosen to pray to Elvis instead of God, though he once set out to be a preacher. In the winter of 1984, Murphy tells us, the rusty river Rua became swollen beyond her normal width. As the book begins:
You will remember it if you were there: clouds gathered overhead like great black cattle, the sun dimmed and the air was charged with augury, a sense of the imminent, the never-heard-tell-all-of-close at hand.
When the water receded two days later survivors discovered the bodies of nine who were less lucky. Their deaths are mysterious. What could have caused them to venture forth of such a night? Nearby, in the basement of the family home, Enoch discovers distressing connections between those who perished the night of the storm and his own lost father and every mystery he himself has ever pondered.

The River and Enoch O’Reilly is magical and Murphy’s is a voice I look forward to listening to again. ◊

India Wilson is a writer and artist.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home