Red Sky in Morning, by Paul Lynch
I picked this book up unrecommended at a book store, and I’m glad I did. The book’s dust jacket, naturally, touts Lynch as a new writer to be reckoned with, and this novel makes that claim real. This is Lynch’s first novel – a second due out soon – and he shatters all the common preconceptions about first novels, i.e., it’s not autobiographical, it shows a fully fleshed voice, and it owns an energy and passion often missing in first novels. But to the story:
It’s 1832, and Coll Coyle, an Irish sharecropper, is thrown off the land his family has worked for several generations. Coll argues with the landowner, and the owner ends up dead. Coll chooses to run for it and is tracked across Ireland, then to Philadelphia, where he and homicidal predator John Faller meet their separate fates.
Not unlike Steinbeck, Lynch builds his story around historical events and places, and he does so without having it seem like a history lesson. His prose is consistent and ornate, and in the style of Cormac McCarthy, although Lynch’s voice is uniquely his. His style is breathtaking, particularly for another writer to read, but it occasionally distances this reader from the story and characters. The section in which Coyle crosses the Atlantic on a small sailing vessel with other travelers is compelling in its own right, but its effect is something of a stall to the story’s movement.
Still, Lynch is talented, and he has a strong vision that runs deep. Its broader sense is in depicting both the humanity and depravity of people of all ilks, with neither trait based in status or wealth.
My rating: 17 of 20 stars