Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies is a strong debut novel, which won her the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016.
McInerney was already known for her blog, Arse End of Ireland, in which McInerney spoke about the impacts of the financial crash on Ireland’s poorest. The novel continues similar themes, focusing on those forced into the fringes of society in Cork.
Ryan is a teenage drug dealer, whose gruff persona masks his hidden inner depths: his talent as a pianist, born of childhood boredom and neglect, and his strong desire not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony. A scene where he loses his virginity, with childhood posters of cars still on the wall, and his more general conflict between his teenage insecurities and the need to act tough as a dealer, shows the nervous transition to adulthood with care.
Georgie is a sex worker who finds herself joining a born-again movement to escape her work — and her drug habit. Georgie’s storyline combines comedy and pathos in equal measure. Other characters are less formed: Jimmy Phelan, fearsome gangster and estranged son of Maureen, whose confrontation of an intruder sets the characters’ paths on a collision course.
The novel perhaps struggles to find its conclusion, but McInerney’s humanist desire to show people trying to overcome their difficult circumstances wins out.
The novel is part of a recent wave of Irish women writers who ably explain the inner conflicts generated by modern society, including Sally Rooney, Sinead Gleeson, Wendy Erskine and Anna Burns.