Mercier Press, €12.95
'There Is A House' is a simple story. It's a strange story, an uncomfortable and difficult story, but a story that deserves to be told nonetheless. In his debut novel, Kieron Connolly wrote about grief. He deals with that subject again in 'There Is A House' - but where the grief in 'Water Sign' was that of losing a loved one to death, 'There Is A House' deals with a loved one losing their life to alcoholism.
Paul Conroy is the narrator in 'There Is A House'. He is a writer who cannot write, a father who is estranged from his 12-year-old daughter by choice, a man who deals with his demons by having a drink. Paul is an alcoholic, an outsider who feels he belongs on the inside only when he has a drink. There are many people who love Paul and want to help him but the only person who can help is Paul himself.
Paul's story does not have a beginning, a middle and an end as we know it. 'There Is A House' jumps from the past to the present and the future and, although that can make it tough going at times, it gives us a truer insight into Paul's mind. We might physically live in the present but our minds exist concurrently in the past and the future as we dwell on what was and what might be.
Connolly succeeds in creating the lonely and threatening world of an alcoholic - the contradiction of wanting to be sober, to be sane and yet the overwhelming desire that is always there to have a drink. However, Connolly deals with that desire with such great subtly that it makes Paul's downward spiral all the more poignant.
'There Is A House' does have one major flaw in that Paul's family and friends seem almost too good to be true in how they cope with his affliction. One would expect more anger, despair and frustration on their part - but this is Paul's story and perhaps the author is deliberately concentrating on Paul's perception of his illness and how he perceives those around him. After all, 'There Is A House' is a love story - the love of Paul for his daughter and friends and their love for him, despite all his troubles.
The reader cannot fail to be moved by Paul's journey from being an alcoholic at odds with the world to being an alcoholic that can finally say "I'm not sane, I'm not insane. I'm just me and that's ok". If you read 'There Is A House', you will realise how quietly triumphant these words are. Although it is at times quite bleak, 'There Is A House' is ultimately uplifting and full of hope - this seems to be a recurring theme in Connolly's books and his optimism is both commendable and infectious.