Friday, 12 March 2021

The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis


The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis
Published by Epoque Press on the 11th March 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Iosac Mulgannon is a man called to stand. Losing a grip on his mental and physical health, he is burdened with looking after a mute child whom the local villagers view as cursed. The aging farmer stubbornly refuses to succumb in the face of adversity and will do anything, at any cost, to keep hold of his farm and the child. This dark and lyrical debut novel confronts a claustrophobic rural community caught up in the uncertainties of a rapidly changing world.

I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read The Beasts They Turned Away, an astounding novel by Ryan Dennis which vividly portrays Iosac Mulgannon's grim, just-scraping-by existence on his long-neglected farm. For the opening scene where Iosac dumps a dead cow's corpse I knew this was going to be a uniquely powerful novel and I remained utterly engrossed by every page. That said, The Beasts They Turned Away is bleak. It does have its lighter scenes - mainly depicting three perpetually drunken ex-farmers in the pub - but I couldn't say it is an enjoyable read! From having initially been horrified by Iosac's apparent callousness towards his animals, I grew to feel pity for his predicament, made so much worse by his stubbornness in clinging to the life he has always known despite everything, from the farm buildings to his own mental health, obviously irreparably collapsing around him. Dennis gradually allows us insights into why Iosac has ended up so isolated so I could understand his brusque ways. The mute child is an eerie character and I did wonder, at first, whether the boy actually existed outside of Iosac's mind. He does and his silent presence gives the whole story a deeply unsettling atmosphere. That Iosac is always doing his very best, for the boy and for his farm, is what makes The Beasts They Turned Away such a poignant read. If only he made just a little more money, or was twenty years younger and fitter, then there might be genuine hope for his future. Instead, I felt I always knew this story would not end well. 


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ryan Dennis / Contemporary fiction / Books from Ireland

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