Repo man seeks love, Belfast area

Susie Boyt reads a tale of romance and violence in the Ulster ceasefire

Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, Secker, pounds 14.99

''Searing'', ''as fresh as an open wound', "it goes straight for the jugular'' are how Robert McLiam Wilson's first two novels, Ripley Bogle and Manfred's Pain were described. His third, Eureka Street, certainly has a strong thread of violence running through it - its Ulster setting, complete with bombings and beatings ensures this - but what is most striking about it is its absolute faith in romance. "All stories are love stories" we are told at the book's beginning, a surprising first line for a tale set in Belfast in the six months leading up to the ceasefire. Yet Wilson presents a Belfast where all aspects of life are heightened, all chances must be snatched, because if terrible things can happen without a moment's warning, then perhaps wonderful things can too.

Wilson's novel has two friends as heroes and the chapters take turns in telling their overlapping stories. Jake is Catholic, handsome, vicious and acutely sentimental. Recently separated from his girlfriend Sarah, he is desperate for love. The succession of barmaids, shop workers and waitresses that catch his eye move his hungry heart to such an extent that he immediately fancies himself in love with them.Yet he never quite gets anywhere with these women, at the last moment taking great offence at something they say or fail to say, pushing them away at the very point he wants them most. This sort of delicacy is quite at odds with Jake's day job as a repossesion man. Every day, he and his thuggish co-workers raid the grim estates of Belfast in the early morning when people's resistance is at its lowest.

Jake's fat and ugly protestant friend Chuckie Lurgan's life turns around when he meets a beautiful, rich American girl. Realising she's the kind of girl you need money for, he pulls off a huge mail-order dildo scam, invests the proceeds in even less reputable ventures and suddenly finds himself a rich man.

The book follows the progress of these two men and their small circle: foul-mouthed twelve year old Roche, Lurgan's mother who scandalises the whole of Belfast by taking up with the woman over the road; Septic Ted, Slat, Sloan and Lurgan's business partner who works his way through all the girls in Belfast.

Wilson is at his least effective when he abandons this easy-going anecdotal style for something more poetic, a kind of heightened language in which a voice, both knowing and striving for answers, addresses the reader directly about what Belfast is and what it means. Wilson is so good at showing us things, such a natural story teller, that when he comes straight out and states what he thinks, it sounds weak and unsubtle. But this is only a small complaint. Eureka Street is a clever and witty book by a writer whose real talent is an ability to combine blind optimism and complete despair with a remarkable ease, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world to do so.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project