Lead Review

  • Book: 56 Days
  • Location: Dublin
  • Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Review Author: Tina Hartas

Location

Content

The novel is set around a rather soulless, new-build set of flats in the Harold’s Cross area of Dublin 6. It is a complex called The Crossings that is all polished chrome, glass and exudes an impersonal feel.

The novel is set in the early days of Covid and the plot moves between March 2020 and Summer 2020, when Covid was just rearing its ugly head. A chance meeting in a supermarket between Ciara and Oliver forms the basis for the story. In the NOW – to wit the Summer – a decaying body has been found in one of the apartments. The couple met 56 days ago from the point of the discovery.

DI Leah Riordan and DS Karl Connolly are off to investigate but first one of them has to disentangle the other from a sex game in an abandoned house, which, frankly felt quite random and extraneous to the otherwise good story building between Ciara and Oliver.

Imagine meeting, when Lockdown (how much nicer is the Irish notion of Cocooning?) is still merely a speck on the horizon, finding your feet in a new relationship with all the concomitant insecurities and excitement that come at the start of a budding romance. Then, the pressure of Lockdown descends and for neither are there any family members or friends in the vicinity, as both are newcomers to the city. The decision has to be made: do they, as an evolving couple, spend the period together or apart, it’s such a hard decision when each knows little about the other! The author captures those tentative, early steps in isolation very well, as they adjust to each other’s ways and needs, and each scrutinises the other.

There are of course secrets aplenty, that gradually unfurl as the novel moves through its paces. There are clever red herrings and a few surprises along the way, too! There is considerable back and forth so you do need to pay attention but it works well and makes for an overall engrossing read.

It’s quite brave to already be writing about the Covid pandemic – which the author does really well, capturing the frustrations and concerns and practice – but I am sure there will be readers who are not ready for this. I was certainly in two minds myself.

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator, Alana Kerr Collins does an excellent job, she has a very soothing voice with a wonderful Irish lilt.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021