Friday, May 14, 2010

'Tenderwire' by Claire Kilroy

When the list of the 50 books nominated for best Irish book of the decade was published a few weeks ago I was mildly ashamed to realise that I'd only read three of them. Perhaps I shouldn't have been, the list is a fairly broad one taking in several categories and including things I would rather eat than have to read, like PS I love You and Bill Cullen's autobiography. Still, there are plenty of good authors on the list, and several of those books have been sitting on my shelves for months now, awaiting my perusal.
One such book was Claire Kilroy's Tenderwire. I appear to be reading Kilroy's stuff backwards, having read her third and most most recent one, All Names Have Been Changed (a review of that will no doubt be along soon enough), before Tenderwire - her second.

Tenderwire tells the story of Eva Tyne, a young Irish violinist living in New York who is offered the chance to buy a supposedly rare and valuable violin by a gangster she meets in a bar whilst in the middle of a self-pitying, self-destructive bender. Her life subsequently takes a number of twists and turns as the violin brings triumph and danger to her life in equal measure.
A thriller about a violin? You're probably not gripped yet. But such is Kilroy's skill at characterisation and dialogue that the reader quickly becomes engrossed in the story and comes to understand the redemptive symbolism that the violin holds for the passionate, mentally unstable Eva - a character whom the reader may not necessarily like, but whom they will find themselves caring about. Such are her travails and such is her emotionally fragile believability that there was more than one point during the story where I wanted to wrap Eva up in a blanket, make her a hot chocolate and tell her to cop on to herself.
On this evidence Kilroy deserves her place among the best new Irish writers. I'll let you know for definite when I've read her first.


Jo said...

Oh. I've corrected past paper questions from a recent leaving cert on this. Which stops me in my tracks a bit.

Catherine said...

I found Eve so unlikeable I stopped reading about fifty pages in! 'Tis still on my bedside table though, might have to give it another go.

Andrew said...

Why does it stop you in your tracks, Jo?

Catherine, I think I briefly wavered at around the same point, but I think if you give it another go you probably won't regret it. Her behaviour starts to seem a little more understandable as further things come to light, even if she doesn't become much more likeable.

Anonymous said...

The first few times I started this I couldn't get into it at all, then last week I picked it up again, got to the part of her seeing the violin for the first time, and got completely addicted.

When I want to stop reading at night I have to skim-read the next 20 pages or so just to make sure that nothing horrendous is going to happen to Eva. Yeah she's annoying but she has that curious mixture of toughness and fragility that makes one really care. Reminds me of a girl I know who is really bright, half-mad, and that bit sexy.

I'm half-way through, and really impressed. I get the impression that horrendous things did happen to her (the father thing is obliquely suggested) and will happen to her, and I am caring more than I'd want to.

Andrew said...

Anonymous - I know what you mean, there were parts of the book that I read through my fingers because I was so worried that something nasty might happen to Eva. I haven't bought Kilroy's first one,'All Summer' yet, but I notice that several reviews of it use the word 'unsettling'. Perhaps it's a particular gift Kilroy has, to make you care enough that you feel quite worried for the characters.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous from comment 4 here again. Finished this last night and was not let down at all. Excellent to the end. Overall, it was a lot better than I expected it to be. I figured the good reviews were the usual case of the Irish Times praising one of their own, but they were really deserved. She hit a good balance between a suspenseful thriller and a psychological study of parents and children, not too frothy but not too heavy.

Going to go read Skippy Dies next, for somethigng completely different, and then maybe try the recent one she wrote about the creative writing class in Trinity. I'll keep an eye on here to see if you get around to trying "All summer".

Andrew said...

Hi again Anon, sorry for being so slow to reply. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, feel free to leave a comment on my Skippy Dies review if you want to say what you thought of it when you're done.
Also, you don't have to comment as Anonymous, if you don't want to. Just click 'Comment as: Name/URL and use any kind of handle you like. You don't need to leave an email address or anything like that, so your privacy is still respected.

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Nathalie Uy said...

Good vibes. Everyday, all day. God Bless :)

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