On a rainy day in Dublin, during the spring of 1947, a tragic accident brought devastation to those involved. As the subsequent years pass, unable to come to terms with the accident, the survivors set the path for a deeply troubled future for each generation that followed.
Jonathan Melton had a traumatic childhood in which he ended up in foster care, but when he meets the wild, willful, sexually experienced and free spirited Sophia at university, everything changes. At first inept with women, Jonathan’s complex relationship with Sophia evolves from a one-way obsession into a genuine love and shared passion, as the relationship brings happiness, romance and joy to both their lives that neither thought was ever possible. The two marry, and Sophia gives birth to their first child; a beautiful baby daughter. Everything is seemingly perfect, until the evening that their tiny baby is found dead in her cot.
As his world falls apart around him, Jonathan slips into a dark depression and, increasingly haunted by his past, becomes distant and dysfunctional as he struggles to cope with the loss of his daughter. His marriage to Sophia disintegrates, and Jonathan along with it as he descends further into darkness after leaving Sophia. Although his close friend David succeeds to some extent in saving him from his demons, Jonathan remains a lost and lonely soul, until his apparent chance meeting with the enigmatic Maolíosa in a Dublin bar. Maolíosa and Jonathan form a unique bond, and she challenges his vision of life and the world around him. Fate intervenes, but it ultimately leads Jonathan to redemption, and a final resolution to the aftermath and consequences of the 1947 tragedy.
(re: Goodreads @ Dublin In The Rain by Andrew Critchley)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
-Dynamic and compelling characters with a dialogue-driven narrative.
-Seamlessly integrates issues like: divorce, alternative family, sexuality, substance abuse, and death.
-The power in this story comes from self-reflection and redemption; for the characters and as a reader.
-Multiple scenes with sexual context that may deter readers.
-I’d argue this book can be suited for mature young-adults as it’s a true contemporary fiction at its core.
Full disclosure: I received a copy of Dublin in the Rain through Goodreads First Reads. — So thanks to Andrew and Goodreads for arranging this.
Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from reading this novel. The synopsis and prologue are both striking in setting the tone of the quintessential shit hitting the fan of what is otherwise known as life. There’s so many angles to this book that I guess I have to let my review speak for my inability to detail initial thoughts.
Disclaimer: There may be spoilers inherent to this review from this point onward.
[“From everything I’ve seen in my brief nineteen years on this planet, it should be enough in life to be content. I think that being happy is a statement used far too lightly. Happiness is not an everything thing, it is a special day out, or a special smile from someone you care about, or a piece of good news never expected, or a massive downpour of rain on a summer’s evening or even an incredible piece of writing that I’m reading for the first time. To be content every day should be more than enough for everyone, with lots of moments when true happiness is felt strewn in for good measure.”]
Dublin in the Rain is prefaced around human nature; covering aspects of personal and interpersonal issues relevant to the average Joe. The story is wonderfully layered to encompass life’s journey by extension of individuals (and relationships) around the protagonist while never forgetting the process of it and its implication on (self) identity. The narrative follows Jonathan Paul Melton (J.P.) recanting pivotal moments of thirty some-odd years of his experience to the present. While it plays to the strength of declarative memory in plotting by specifically engaging the highs and lows of J.P.’s past, there’s nuance in its implicit counterpart that becomes essentially unbeknownst to the protagonist while evident to the reader. What I mean by this is that although Jonathan has endured an emotionally charged journey, he isn’t without flaws in past actions (or thoughts) that may question his overall likability as the de facto lead. However, Critchley has crafted multifaceted characters that speak to readers through emotional relevance as it manages to touch on a bucket-list of life issues as they reflect the modern, average lifestyle.
[Ability is of no value without discipline. Winning has no style or substance without humility]
By sketching life events from birth until his present, at a bar in Dublin, the importance of self-reflection plays a critical thematic role as an irrefutable basis for growth. Moreover, the plotting weaves a myriad of issues, including: divorce, alternative family, sexuality, substance abuse, and death while never forgetting elements of human nature in all-encompassing love, managing loss, and coping with guilt. Jonathan’s life is far from a joyride rollercoaster. There’s little room for respite in his life of persistent havoc and reversal of fortunes between himself, his family, and his friends. From a once loving family to divorce and an irreplaceable hatred for a parent, J.P. grows up bottling much of his emotions – never truly wearing it on his sleeves when it mattered. And when he starts to believe in the idea of love again and the cogs of positivity churn in his direction? Nope. Life gifts Jonathan the shit end of the proverbial stick. Again. So what’s J.P. to do but spiral toward an abyss of rage and guilt; ultimately engaging the reader in a poignant and real anecdote of seeking redemption to fully rise above his past that has plagued his views on life.
[Wading through bottle after bottle of wine and packet after packet of cigarettes, my theory was that if I didn’t exist then I wouldn’t feel pain.]
Tackling contemporary issues in a tangible matter is just one part of the compelling equation. The driving force behind this subtle yet powerful book is in the characters and their shared dialogue. Each one has been meticulously fleshed out with a vibrant realness; particularly David Pritchett, J.P.’s best friend and son of his adoptive family. He (David) often endured the same trials and tribulations as J.P. but handled them in a different perspective as he had been dealt a different set of cards. While both may not have made rationally sound decisions throughout their lives, it’s the manner in which they reflect on their struggles that truly sell this story. Alternatively, Sophia is a gem in Jonathan’s life that really helped deliver an emotionally resonating account of realistic love; a not-so happily ever after, if you will. Although they don’t share the same outlook on love and life, it’s in the conversations which readers will truly respect their relationship. The dialogue can be overambitious in portraying these young adults as die-hard literature fanatics (i.e. reciting several lines of poetry or stories on a whim) but it certainly plays this angle in a quick-and-witty banter so you aren’t hung on the prose itself.
[“There was a quote from my old English teacher at school. ‘I seek a love so amazing, so divine. One that demands my life, my soul, my all.’ I always felt that if I found that then everything else would all into place. And for a while it did.”
“Such an aspiration in life merely symbolises your desire for escapism, to avoid genuinely confronting yourself, your past and your hopes of the future. There is a sense of being in love with being in love, rather than real love.”]
The pacing in this narrative advocates the true value of each life event as they’re etched into Jonathan’s memory; whether it is linked to love, loss, or simply a non-categorized repressed memory. However, there were times that I certainly questioned the importance of particular scenes to the canvas being painted. To elaborate, there were moments when I felt like I was reading something from 50 Shades of Jonathan Paul because there is a plethora of sexual context albeit not-graphic or extremely detailed—I think he metaphorically called an orgasm Niagara Falls. Oh, and there are moments of bondage sexytimes so that’s always fun. So if even the slightest bit of sexual exploration is not your cup of tea, this book may not be for you. It’s really a hit and miss for me. There’s definitive meaning in the foreplay and post-elation moments of dialogue, but it certainly does feel as though the scenes were dragged on for much longer than it had to be. Understandably, recounting the past is strongly tied to pleasurable and stimulating moments; which to J.P. revolve around the feeling of loving and being loved. So in this sense, I sort of understand the delivery. I think it’s more about the surprise that this book has so much of it that came off as a whoa-factor that wasn’t mentioned in the brief.
Although this book doesn’t have a suggested age group, I would argue that this novel can be read by both young-adults and adults. Yes, I know the purple elephant in the room is sex itself and substance abuse — but above all else, these are tough issues that should be tackled proactively as readers continue to discover and reinvent themselves (as opposed to retroactively). I’m not going to delve into the argument of its appropriateness but to just say that with the chosen elements and thematic choices in this particular novel, Dublin In The Rain is a contemporary fiction at its core.
[“I only believe in three things. Destiny, Chance and, of course, Love. Destiny is kind and destiny can be cruel. Chance is as chance is – completely random. Love is the only thing that makes sense of it all. All we can do as individuals is to be accountable for our actions. Once you accept the life process then it becomes easier to make decisions. Everyone’s past has both difficulties and triumphs, and once you accept this then you can approach the future with real optimism and belief.”]
Power in writing can come from the nuances in detailing of characters and their world – to actually care and root for their successes. But it can also come in the form of a reader reflecting on their own life by proxy of narrative elements and their personal discretions and connections created through re-examination. This is what Dublin in the Rain achieves. As mystifying as the revelation is, there’s a level of realism which parallels and drives this book to be thoroughly engaging even if it’s not the quickest of reads or the most exciting of plots. Usually, I would say: “to each their own” – and this novel is absolutely that. Human vulnerability can be perceived a numerous ways. Andrew Critchley has written an honest human piece that to be frank, exceeded my feels in many aspects and made me tear once in a scene – a feat I so rarely achieve. So yes, I didn’t know what I signed myself up for but have I changed my perception toward life? Maybe slightly – and isn’t that what counts?
In the spirit of disclosure: I read through several, albeit minor, issues relating to grammatical and/or spelling issues throughout the novel. As the copy that I received was presumably a currently released edition (it was hardcover), this issue may be prevalent. So while it did halt me at times to question some aspects in writing, it does not detract from my overall stance on this novel.
[“Redemption comes from genuine forgiveness. It doesn’t come from mere understanding.”]
//end of much nonsense.
This book took me much longer than expected to read and review. But it certainly was great practice to tackle these types of books different from what I read regularly.