As a debut novel, 'Banks of Green Willow' disappoints; as a debut novel from Kevin Myers, one of Ireland's most renowned journalists, it is a complete letdown. Although there is no denying that Myers is an excellent writer capable of a wonderful turn of phrase, it would seem his forte lies within the journalistic sphere rather than the world of fiction.
'Banks of the Green Willow' opens in 1972, when Gina Cambell, a young American woman holidaying in Ireland, falls in love with Stefan, who is half-Serb, half-Irish. Their lives take them down separate paths and we follow Gina home to the States where she marries Warren who is willing to bring up her son Tom, by Stefan, as his own. The story spans over twenty years, moving between small-town Louisiana, rural Ireland and war-torn Bosnia as we witness how the inescapable consequences of 20th century history impact on common people and common lives.
Essentially, 'Banks of the Green Willow' is a love story but as such it is unconvincing. The constant switching from the story of Gina's life to events in present-day Bosnia makes for a disjointed and ultimately dissatisfying read and the resolution that links the two concurrent plots is anti-climatic. It is within the passages devoted to the events in the Bosnian war that Myers displays his writing skills at their best, but that is not enough to carry such an ambitious book, especially as these passages read more like pieces of journalism than a means to advance the plot.
The majority of his characters are distinctly unlikeable while the few that are agreeable are totally implausible and, overall, it proves impossible to strike up any relationship with the main protagonist, Gina. No doubt, Myers' name on the spine of this book will attract plenty of readers regardless of the reviews but keep in mind the old adage, never judge a book by its cover.