Prophet Song | Paul Lynch

contemporary | dystopian | booker prize winner

First published 2023

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch on the blogandbooks spiral background

The Booker Prize winner for 2023 is Paul Lynch's dark dystopian novel, Prophet Song. Set in the Republic of Ireland in the very near-future, the right-wing party, National Alliance, seize power and take control of the government. The Garda (Irish National Police) are given far-reaching powers, establishing a new secret police force. Civil liberites and freedoms are taken away from the citizens, mass arrests begin and Irish nationals are held and tortured.

Eilish Stack is the protagonist, and after her husband, a teacher and trade union leader, is arrested, Eilish is left to care for her four children and her ageing father alone. She petitions for her husband's release without success, and the country quickly descends into civil war. Any Irish citizens suspected of being part of the resistance are arrested or killed. 

The novel is told without paragraph breaks, creating a breathless, claustrophobic atmosphere. Ideas of free will and liberty are taken to breaking point, with both crumbling to dust before our eyes on the page. Eilish is forced to make impossible decisions to keep her children safe, eventually boarding a truck full of people, bound for what she hopes will be safety, but which is yet another perilous journey on a rubber boat.

My Verdict: This has to be one of the most harrowing books I have EVER read. After I had put it down I needed to take some time to decompress. It's so real, could so easily happen to any of us and is happening to so many people in the world at this very moment. Lynch says that he was inspired to write the book after the Syrian civil war broke out and the subsequent refugee crisis that followed accompanied by the world's apparent indifference to human suffering. With the Hamas/Israeli conflict, the Russia/Ukraine war and the many other human rights abuses taking place all over the globe at this present time, there could not be a more relevant book. It is simply incredible, heartbreaking, scary and should come with many trigger warnings. Was it a wise idea to read such a book in deep, dark winter in Berlin? Probably not. But sometimes you just have to. One of the best books I've read...ever.

Review Award | 5/5

Published 06.12.2023

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