cover image Prophet Song

Prophet Song

Paul Lynch. Atlantic Monthly, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6301-1

An Irish family is shattered by the rise of a radical right-wing party in this slow-burning dystopian novel from Lynch (Grace). In the near future, Ireland is governed by the National Alliance Party, an eerily totalitarian mutation of nationalist politics dating back to the Troubles. Their leaders employ a militant secret police force, which rounds up trade unionist Larry Stack after he participates in a protest march. Larry’s four children assume he’s been killed along with others “disappeared” by the NAP, but his wife, Eilish, is in denial and refuses to consider leaving for somewhere safer. Lynch renders Eilish’s inner world with relentless blocks of page-long paragraphs, unbroken even during conversations with her father, Simon, who, in his dementia, often blurs past and present (he describes NAP “thugs” as “trouble,” suggesting they are reminiscent of IRA soldiers). Some of this might be lost on readers unfamiliar with the history. Still, the momentum of the prose lends an air of portentousness to the narrative until Eilish’s denial finally crumbles as she claims the body of one of her sons, who has been tortured to death, from a military hospital. Readers well-versed in the context will find Lynch’s vision painfully plausible. Agent: Simon Trewin, Simon Trewin Creative. (Dec.)