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Review: Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary

Irish author Karl Geary’s first novel, Montpelier Parade, is filled with the sort of smart dialogue and quick turns that have brought Geary success as a scriptwriter. But what makes this novel soar is the careful plotting and attention to detail which result in a series of dark – and heartbreaking - turns. A surprisingly suspenseful novel about love and family, Montpelier Parade is a marvelous debut.

Life in 1980s Dublin is “plain and small” for sixteen-year-old Sonny Knoll: a romantic boy who dreams of escaping his schooling, his job at the butcher shop, and his physically demanding weekend brickwork with his father for a different life. But while fixing a garden wall in the posh Dublin neighborhood of Montpelier Parade Sonny meets Vera, an older English woman with whom he forges a connection. With Vera, a new world opens up to Sonny: a world of books, museums, and stoked fires.

With the classic tenacity and fervor of a teenager, Sonny finds himself falling in love with Vera and pushing back against his old life, which now seems chaotic and sad. His parents are scandalized – and scared for Sonny: “That woman will make a fool of you, Sonny, giving you ideas,” his mother tells him. “You wouldn’t thank me later if I said nothing, and I can’t stand to see my children made a fool of, Sonny, I can’t.”

“No one’s making a fool of me,” Sonny says, but “a small pool of doubt” begins to form in his mind.

Geary’s Montpelier Parade is a delicate weaving of two powerful and complicated narratives: a May-December love story and a tale of economic divide. Written in spare second person, Geary fully inserts the reader into Sonny’s mind, making it so we feel every cold draft, punch on the jaw, and emboldened embrace: an unusual narrative device that, like Sonny, surprises with its effectiveness, its power.