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and life along the winding road

Friday, March 1, 2024

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch has very mixed reviews and even the Booker Prize Judges took six hours to decide on a winner.

It is a difficult read both because of the subject matter of a totalitarian, dystopian society but also in the style of writing. There are no paragraph breaks and even the dialog is not separated but merely blended in with descriptions and thoughts, all in present tense.

The story of Eilish Stack's family begins with her husband, a trade union leader, being arrested. With the new Emergency Powers Act, the Irish government has taken control of the judiciary and is using its special powers to quash any divisive actions quickly with no legal recourse. The brutal police state is also calling into National Service any children who reach the age of 17. Eilish is described as being a microbiologist with her hands full, taking care of her children and an aged father suffering from dementia.

The family's original plan was to visit Eilish's sister in Canada for a vacation and it is when she tries to obtain passports for her children that Eilish discovers the normal procedures and legalities of the country have changed. From then on, with no news from her husband, and her children wandering in different directions, she struggles to keep them all together and also to keep an eye on her father living on the other side of town.

My thoughts are that this could have been an interesting and thought provoking story and especially good for book review discussion, but I found myself skipping large passages because the lack of paragraph and dialog breaks didn't make it an easy read.

Spoiler Alert:
Many people questioned the ending. As they were either close to the Northern Ireland border or had crossed it, the most likely destination for the boats would be across the Irish Sea to England. Eilish's sister in Canada appeared to have arranged for the people smugglers to get the family out of Ireland, I believe she would have also arranged for passage to Canada. I was a bit confused why Eilish didn't put on a life jacket and Molly was reluctant to either.