All We Shall Know tells the story of Melody Shee. At 33 years-old, she finds herself pregnant with the child of a 17 year-old Traveller boy, Martin Toppy, and not by her husband Pat. Melody was teaching Martin to read, but now he’s gone, and Pat leaves too, full of rage. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming, while the past won’t let her go. It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a bold young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.
Following the nine months of her pregnancy, All We Shall Know unfolds with emotional immediacy in Melody’s fierce, funny, and unforgettable voice, as she contends with her choices, past and present.
Without disclosing the details of this final scene, it does not seem extravagant to claim it is worthy of Greek drama. That the tragedies of our own age happen in suburban semis, or on Travellers’ sites, does not make them any less cathartic – and Ryan’s choice of narrator, a character both deeply flawed and painfully guilty, shows him working in the great tradition of tragic fiction, his lonely adulteress coming to grief in the same shadowy spaces as Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina.The Guardian
‘Martin Toppy is the son of a famous Traveller and the father of my unborn child. He’s seventeen, I’m thirty-three. I was his teacher. I’d have killed myself by now if I was brave enough. I don’t think it would hurt the baby. His little heart would stop with mine. He wouldn’t feel himself leaving one world of darkness for another, his spirit untangling itself from me.’
Donal Ryan is from Nenagh in County Tipperary. His first two novels, The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December, and his short story collection A Slanting of the Sun, have all been published to major acclaim. The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature (Ireland), and Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards; it was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Thing About December was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and the title story of A Slanting of the Sun won the writing.ie Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Donal holds a Writing Fellowship at the University of Limerick. He lives with his wife Anne Marie and their two children just outside Limerick City.
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