IRISH writer Lisa McInerney was raised in Galway but spent holidays and her college years in Cork, and it is the city by the Lee that she has put at the heart of her acclaimed and best-selling trilogy of novels.
The Rules of Revelation completes the story began in The Glorious Heresies and continued in The Blood Miracles.
In the newly published final instalment, McInerney describes Ryan Cusack’s return to where it all began, the northside of Cork city. Musician, former drug dealer, and possible star in the making, Ryan has no shortage of demons to face, both in his head and on the streets of the city.
Other characters from the earlier novels either never left or have also made their way home.
Karine, the mother of Ryan’s son Diarmaid, again feels the pull of her teenage love, but a long-kept secret rocks her view of the past they shared.
Sex-worker Georgie wants the truth about Ryan’s past out there, but journalist Medbh has her own agenda.
Ryan’s childhood neighbour Linda/Mel Duane returns from Britain, still uncertain of her place in the world and ill-equipped to deal with the resurgence of a family scandal.
Maureen Phelan has lived in Cork since she first met teenage Ryan, but a conversation with her granddaughter makes her fear that the city and her place in it is changing around her and if anyone’s telling the story she wants to make sure it’s her.
(A word of warning, The Rules of Revelation will not work as a stand-alone read. It refers throughout to the events of the previous two novels, particularly The Glorious Heresies. If you haven’t already read them, now is the time to do it, when you can enjoy the whole three-book tale.)
This is a different Cork, and Ireland, to the place where Ryan and Karine spent their teenage years. The Rules of Revelation is set in post-referendums, post-Brexit (pre-pandemic) Ireland.
“It was said that Ireland was reinventing herself, as if this was some rare event and the country wasn’t in a constant state of dithering,” McInerney writes.
“It was 2019 and a funny time to be Irish. At no time in Ireland’s history was it not a funny time to be Irish.”
McInerney casts a caustic eye on this new Ireland. We meet characters well versed in the language of the modern world, discussing neoliberalism and artist’s collectives, with female characters interrogating themselves on their feminism.
But beneath the veneer, many of the old attitudes thrive. Georgie and Maureen both reflect on the ease with which they see men move through their lives and be forgiven transgressions. Karine’s ‘grand, decent’ boyfriend Dylan reveals very different inner thoughts in their break-up conversation: “I won’t be so quick the next time to give a girl the benefit of the doubt”.
And as Ryan and other characters come to realise, although society changes and lives change, the past is still there and will remain with them.
The Rules of Revelation sees characters facing their adulthood and realising the young people they were and the decisions they made in the past are right there with them, and will remain so.
As in her first two novels, Mcinerney has a note-perfect ear for dialogue and particularly the lilt of the Cork city accent in full flow.
Add in a perfect description of the city, from the boardwalk to the coffee shops to the teenagers gathered on the Grand Parade, and McInerney has written a novel that will appeal to a wide audience but will particularly resonate with Leeside natives and residents.