Montpelier Parade is the beautiful and tender debut novel from Dublin born Karl Geary. This short book tells the story of teenager Sonny, living in 1980s Dublin, and his ambiguous relationship with the mysterious older woman that is Vera Hatton.
Sonny first meets Vera while assisting his father on some building works in her grand house off Merrion Square on Montpelier Parade. Sonny's weather-worn father is quick to paint other Vera and in a negative light - to him she is nothing more than a posh woman who should be sneered at, the differences between 'her' and 'them' seemingly insurmountable.
Sonny, on the other hand, is fascinated by her. She is twice his age yet he is enraptured by her beauty, her Anglo-Irish accent and manner. Something about her stirs his desire to learn more about this mysterious woman, and the world in which she lives.
Sonny's own life is one of enforced austerity, with a gambling father who has no relationship with his sons. His mother suffers with her nerves and at school they are waiting for him to trip up and prove his worthlessness. His only friend is the complicated and pitiful Sharon who more often than not insults and rejects him. Add to this a couple of hours every day sweeping the blood-encrusted sawdust from the floor in the local butchers and that's Sonny's life encapsulated.
In this version of Dublin, you accept the cards that life deals you and acknowledge your fate, moreover, your destiny, because in this world you don't have the luxury of options. However, once Vera enters his life, Sonny can finally recognise his growing sense of unease with the mundane and dull routine of the everyday. Vera awakens something new in Sonny, a young boy becoming a man whose house and existence does not seem so 'small and cramped' after all.
Vera and Sonny's lives cross paths for a fleeting amount of time yet the affect they have on one another is profound. Geary delicately prods and draws out what it is to love another person, what can be given, taken and shared. Humans are delicate creatures and must be treated so. The tenderness depicted by Geary in his novel is not sweet or angelic, it is harsh, has coarse edges and at times must be battled with.
A motif of the bond between these two most unlikely of souls is artfully painted throughout this novel, and treated with such emotional maturity, that the reader cannot help but be drawn in to this deeply moving tale. Montpelier Parade is a wonderful read whose tender story will stay with you long after turning the last page.