A couple or years ago, Lisa McInerney’s debut novel, The Glorious Heresies was a pretty big deal: she won the Desmond Elliot prize, the Baileys Prize and probably some other prizes that aren’t etched onto the top right hand corner of the cover of this pre-publication proof I received of her follow-up, The Blood Miracles. Like most things I’m reading at the moment (while performing the role of well-behaved and thrifty Canadian resident), I’ve had this book for a while, this one for so long that The Blood Miracles was actually published almost two years ago. I think the reason why I didn’t immediately rush to reading this is the same reason I felt it was less breathtaking than The Glorious Heresies when I eventually read it: it’s a sequel.
I read The Glorious Heresies back in the Winter of 2016, when I was living my absolute worst life. There was nothing good in my life back then, except for books, so a very good one meant a HUGE amount. McInerney’s debut excited me and fuelled me through a few days of alcoholic depression (this was back in my drinking-negronis-until-I-passed-out most days phase), no social life, no creative outlet save this blog lol, and thus it was important. The Glorious Heresies felt like a whole, though: it felt complete and it was satisfying. It’s a great, frenetic and energetic novel and it was McInerney’s narrative voice that made it, really. Though there are many varied characters who are fun to care about and be surprised by, none of them are particularly memorable, and when I read the blurb of The Blood Miracles in 2017 I didn’t feel much compulsion to return to those exact same people. McInerney’s voice and the Cork that she evokes, yes, I’d be excited about that, but using the same people just seemed… I dunno, unnecessary…
I think my aversion to literary sequels is something rather lame and tradish, tbh. I think the reason why sequels are something that we see so infrequently in literary fiction (except for in pieces that open PROMISING a sequel) is that a sequel is something we associate with plot, right? With genre fiction? A sequel comes after a cliffhanger ending? A cliffhanger ending justifies and pushes a reader to purchasing another book. It’s the same with cinema and TV, innit? A sequel implies a lack of resolution, which if unintentional when writing the previous volume is admitting a fault, right?
The Glorious Heresies didn’t need a sequel: it wasn’t unsatisfying and the characters – anti-heroes rather than heroes, criminals of varying levels of pettiness – weren’t unrealised, they didn’t need more writing to make them clear. Why did McInerney, then, choose to keep her focus on exactly the same set of characters, making The Blood Miracles into a near-ghost of a novel, rather than the brash and sparklingly alive piece of fiction her debut was?
The novel in itself is fine, it’s good, it’s solid, but it’s not as structurally ambitious as The Glorious Heresies and, by including the same characters, it’s inherently less imaginative: she had already created almost everyone the plot required. There’s nothing wrong with the book, but there are fewer characters, fewer surprises, fewer locations and introductions, fewer digressions and fewer perspectival shifts. Had this been McInerney’s first novel, or the first novel by McInerney’s that I’d read, I’d be lauding it as a GREAT book with masses of potential, but I’m not comparing The Blood Miracles to the average contemporary novel, I’m comparing it to The Glorious Heresies, which is a corker (pun intended). The Blood Miracles is a strong contemporary novel and well worth a read, but it’s not as fresh as the other one, like. My high expectations were the only thing that let this book down, but I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s about international drug deals and local club nights and intrigue and power grabs within and between rival criminal gangs, but it’s also about grief and loss and growing up (or failing to), about shirking or accepting responsibility, about fucking and getting wasted and about being alive. It’s good, but it’s not as great as The Glorious Heresies.
Tbh, if you haven’t read The Glorious Heresies, I’d definitely advise you to seek it the fuck out, and if you have a copy of The Blood Miracles lying about, as I did, it’s definitely worth a read, but it just… I dunno.
On November 14th 2018, I launched my first (and so far only) book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:
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