‘There is a simple cure for loneliness.
It’s to reach out to others but to also embrace being reached out to.’
The King of Lavender Square is an inspirational debut from Irish writer Susan Ryan, Just published in October 2017 by Poolbeg Press, I was delighted to receive a copy for review. The arrival of this book came through my letterbox with the scent of lavender assailing my senses. Beautifully packaged, it’s always such a treat to open post like this.
‘In a world where communication was at it’s most sophisticated, people seemed to be lonelier than ever’, so Susan Ryan decided to write a novel with a magical flair that introduced us all to one very special young boy.
I do hope you enjoy my review…
Saskia watches the lives of others from her eyrie in Lavender Square with a lonely fascination. While the teacher, the recluse, the advertising whizz-kid and the African woman and her young son run, rush, dart and dash, she knows for sure that she will never have anything worth dashing to.
But sometimes all it takes is a little magic to bring people together. And, in Lavender Square, where the lavender grows in mysterious abundance and colours the air with a musky sense of love, magic is never very far away.
The neighbours, who once passed each other by in detached universes, find themselves thrown together when they are obliged to take care of young Patrick Kimba. His mother is seriously ill and no one knows when or if she is ever coming home. At first they resist the tiresome interruption, until quite by accident Patrick’s dream of becoming a football star and finding his long-lost father becomes theirs, and their lives and heartaches become woven together in a new and unexpected pattern.
I regard myself as very very lucky with the books I get the opportunity to read. I have a very big pile of novels to be read and occasionally one gets a little push to the top, depending on my mood. I needed a feel-good book in the last couple of weeks, with the onset of Winter and the realities of general life stuff. This is where Susan Ryan’s book fitted the bill perfectly.
In the press release for The King of Lavender Square, there is a gorgeous insight into why Susan Ryan chose to write this novel. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll share an extract here
‘The writer was living in a flat in a pretty square in Rathmines (Dublin) where she had an eagle-eye view of her neighbours. She watched them scurrying past, some with headphones on, others with heads in their phones, but all ignoring each other purposefully, politely – drifting along in their lonely universes and it became clear to her where the root of the so called age of anxiety lay. Kids no longer plonked down their jumpers on the street anymore to fashion quick goalposts and play football, they were monitored closely, kept tabs on. Doors firmly shut, not knocked on unless agreed by prearranged text. The elderly passed by, a nod, a quick flash of a wave through a car window….’
The King of Lavender Square is ‘a rally cry against loneliness and a call to arms against the age of anxiety. It is an antidote to isolation and of conversation with real people in real life and in real time. It is a tonic’
Saskia Heffernan, a young girl in her twenties, lives alone in flat on a square in Dublin. Dreaming of a better life, Saskia is a barrista at a local cafe. She has aspirations of a very different future where her world will be filled with happiness and brighter days, but for now Saskia is very lonely. With her binoculars in hand, she drinks wine and watched the world pass by outside her window. Every so often she re-organises her ‘bottom drawer’ where she gathers up pieces that she hopes will sit on the shelves of her new home if she were ever to marry. Eleanor Oliphant came to mind a little when reading about Saskia, except Saskia has experienced life and is all too aware of the real world. Carrying disappointment with her in every moment, Saskia is an example of many in our society today who live a very isolated existence, even when surrounded by so many.
Saskia watches her neighbours from her perch on Lavender Square, aware of who they all are but no more than that. There is Nuala, a teacher who sits on the front steps with her cat. The Fox family, living across the way, have all the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle but happiness seems to evade them. Tom Winters is the fit young advertising executive with the fast car and always with a woman by his side but also seemingly never particularly too happy. There is the recluse living in the flat in the same house as Saskia who is forever leaving cranky notes on residents doors. Finally there is the Kimba family, mother Tessa and son Patrick, a mystery to Saskia as she never gets the opportunity to have a conversation with Tessa. All these characters’ stories are weaved together into this wonderfully, captivating tale by Susan Ryan.
Patrick Kimba is born in Ireland to Tessa, a woman with a very mysterious past. Patrick has an ambition to play football for Ireland, to become a recognised star in the hope of one day finding his father, a soldier in the Congolese army. He spends all his free time with a football in his hand as he practices as often as he can to the continuous frustration of his mother. She wants a better life for her son and for Tessa this means an education for Patrick in Ireland. Football, for Tessa, is not how Patrick should be spending his spare time. Misfortune soon befalls Tessa, when she receives news of a very serious illness. No longer able to look after her son, the residents of Lavender Square find they have to discover common ground and take care of this young boy.
The King of Lavender Square is a shining light in the society we live in today. Patrick Kimba is a little boy with big dreams who refuses to let our society drag him down. His optimism, though challenged many times, is refreshing and inspiring. His will to succeed in a world that constantly promotes negativity and disapproval is both exhilarating and exciting.
I dare you not to be completely enraptured by this compelling and enchanting tale. Susan Ryan has achieved something very special with this book. I highly recommend The King of Lavender Square. It is a novel that brings joy to a world that has forgotten how to be……
A charming, captivating and truly magical novel
Purchase Link ~ The King of Lavender Square
Susan Ryan grew up in Gorey, County Wexford. After graduating with a degree in Social Science from University College Dublin, she worked in Greece, Germany, London and Australia in positions as diverse as menu translation in Greece to Cook in the Western Australia wheat belt.
She now works as an advertising copywriter, on campaigns ranging from banking to beer, and has won a number of industry awards. In 2012, she was commissioned by Ireland s only two star Michelin restaurant to write Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud The First Thirty Years . She lives in Dublin with her partner, Stéphane, and daughter, Sophie.
The King of Lavender Square is her first novel.
Twitter ~ @susanannryan