Beta
X

02Jun

Panenka by Rónán Hession review – moments of grace

The follow-up to cult hit Leonard and Hungry Paul is the tale of a former footballer’s second chance

Rónán Hession’s first novel, 2019’s Leonard and Hungry Paul, won the word-of-mouth success that small publishers dream of, and it hasn’t stopped rolling yet: shortlisted for half a dozen prizes, it recently made the One Dublin One Book choice for people across Hession’s home city to read.

A hard act to follow. Hession’s new novel, Panenka, adopts an amiable, sincere approach that’s similar to his debut, but with a touch of steel at the core. The hero – that word seems apt – is Joseph, a former footballer for Seneca FC living in a rundown part of an unnamed town, “a sort of spare room where all the problems were dumped”. He is 50 but seems older (grandchild, comb-over) and is nicknamed Panenka, after a risky penalty-taking move (straight down the middle) he tried 25 years earlier.

He blames his failure to score in that game not only for his team’s relegation, but for the decline of the whole town: “There are lots of unhappy people here, and it’s a huge relief for them to agree on a single cause of that unhappiness.” Caught in this trap between self-abnegation and self-obsession, it’s little wonder that Joseph suffers from crippling headaches – though his doctor has a more alarming explanation.

Continue reading...

Related

‘It’s the best way to live!’: International Booker winners Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell

The Indian novelist and her translator scooped the £50,000 prize with Tomb of Sand, a novel about de...

Read More >

Translating Myself and Others by Jhumpa Lahiri review – the sanctuary of language

The novelist’s collection of essays on translation only hint at what led her to take refuge in Ital...

Read More >

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg review – rock bottom in a ‘rest home’

First published in 1964, this striking account of Greenberg’s years in a psychiatric hospital revea...

Read More >

The Opposite of a Person by Lieke Marsman review – climate and Copernicus meet in the Italian Alps

The impact of blowing up a hydroelectric dam, the limits of identity politics and the Renaissance po...

Read More >

The best recent translated fiction – review roundup

Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza; The Trouble With Happiness by Tove Ditlevsen; The Land ...

Read More >

We Move by Gurnaik Johal review – a colourful tapestry of multicultural lives

Johal weaves stories of Southall citizens with economy and skill in this compelling debut collection...

Read More >