Member Reviews

" ‘Mouthing’ by Orla Mackey

Genres: Domestic Fiction & Literary Fiction

Themes: Intergenerational trauma, Community, & Religion.

Review: Mackey’s debut novel ‘Mouthing’ is based in the fictional rural village of Ballyrowan and moves between several unreliable narrators all positing their version of events. It’s a multigenerational tale with each character weaving a new scene into the tapestry of events.

Each narrator mouths off their side of the story in an intimate manner that feels like they’re sitting around the kitchen table having an overdue gossip. As the reader learns new points of view it becomes evident that no one can be trusted to provide an unpolished truth.

It’s a unique take on rural life and how the Irish countryside has a dark underbelly beneath all its charm and talk of community support. In doing so it hits on how the Irish community mishandles mental health, the influence of church figures in their parish, and just how misconceived our ideas of someone else’s life can be.

It’s a quick and easy read given the character-led nature of the plot. Mackey confidently realises her original premise. The pacing flows nicely with the ending aptly wrapping up all the conflicting stories.

Recommend: ✔️ - one to pick up when it hits shelves next week! "

Rating provided online - 3.5/5 - followers know I rarely give 5 so 3.5/4 on my page is regarded as a high rating.

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Wonderful debut novel. The various perspectives felt like standalone short stories in themselves, and added to the intrigue as the book went along. Absorbing read, I finished the book in 1 day - will keep an eye out for this author in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance digital copy.

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Enjoyed the simplicity and multigenerational stories told in this particular style. Quite the engaging piece of writing and a new experience for me.

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I requested this one because I have read so much about it and my modest knowledge of rural Ireland. The stream of consciousness by the characters and the short chapters make for an easy and entertaining read. Plus, one does not need any prior knowledge about rural Ireland.
The structure of the book is ideal for multiple, unreliable narrators across generations and revealing secrets and feuds. You keep wondering what the next chapter will shake in terms of what you have read/assumed/imagined before reading that.
Ballyrowan might be fictional, but it is real.

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With each characters giving their own stream of consciousness, this novel builds a panoramic depiction of a small community. Interlinked through generations and events the world of Ballyrowan becomes strangely real. Pleasantly different in style to many contemporary novels and steers clear of becoming incomprehensible.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGally for the opportunity to review this title.

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I really enjoyed this very unique book which depicts the lives of those living in a rural small Irish town. The writing style is a stream of consciousness from the various narrators and it is completely immersive. I was fully engrossed in the story and finished it very quickly! I did find that just as I was really getting into one storyline it would end and move on to the next. It left me with an incomplete story as such but I feel that may have been deliberate as with "mouthing" you never get the complete story. Julia and Joanne's story is one that will stay with me for a very long time. I loved it!

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4.5 stars

Startlingly unique. I don’t often proclaim this about a book but this was like nothing I’ve ever read before. A scathing/heartbreaking/harsh insight to country living and how people and families can fall between the cracks.

It’s basically a chaotic stream of consciousness, exploring the thoughts and experiences of the villagers from 1962 to 1997. You get the inner monologue from one villager, then the same scene from another person’s flow of thoughts.

At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but I kept reading and next thing I knew I was finished the book. The unique style felt very immersive and for a few hours I was part of that village and I loved getting the kaleidoscopic view of life there.

The title Mouthing is so appropriate, I feel like it implies a certain level of exaggeration and with a cast of unreliable narrators it muddies the waters even more on who and what to believe.

Highly recommended if you enjoy character lead plots, a stream of consciousness format and a setting that could only be rural Ireland.

Thanks to Netgalley and Viking Books UK for providing a copy of this book for review. As always, you will receive my honest opinion, regardless of the book's source.

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Mouthing, the debut novel of Orla Mackey, is the story of a people, the inhabitants of the fictional Ballyrowan. It is a multi-generational series of monologues, soliloquies and tales which contrast, conflict and harmonise to build its portrait.

Written through these series of short pieces, in Irish cadence, is the story of real people; by the end you feel like you've lived in Ballyrowan top.

It reminded me often of Donal Ryan's early work, which is high praise for me. I really look forward to reading what she does next.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.

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A wonderful mix of beautifully written stories. The characters are well-rounded & the stories are very cleverly connected.

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a quick and easy read about members of a fictional irish town called ballyrowan. the first two chapters had me interested in the way the characters spoke, their cadence was nostalgic and it reminded me of my own family. then, when i got to the third chapter, or third perspective, it made me stop - go ‘hold on’ and reread the first two perspectives.

the book makes you question who is a reliable narrator, which i enjoy greatly. it also looks at the small town through various family members and residents, from the 60s through to the early 2000s. it shows how our decisions can effect the next generation, how each character has their own story and how it’s interwoven with others in the novel.

each story is comprised of three narrators, leaving the reader to find where the truth lies. i especially liked the last trio, which also contained a child narrator which was a nice difference in tone.

thank you netgalley, penguin and viking for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Mouthing by Orla Mackey is a community based novel that features a cast of characters retelling the same events from their own perspectives over several generations.

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Totally immersive, I feel like I have lived a life in this Irish village through the eyes of these characters. So clever to see the same events from different perspectives and as such change your opinion on them as it went along. Would love to read what the author does next!

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For me this took a little while to get into the writing style took some time to get used and it wasn't really sure where the story was going, I nearly gave it up as DNF but I stuck with it and am very glad I did.

Told over a number years we hear from in the first POV a cast of interesting characters retelling the same events in part from their perspectives. The writing is a chatty style like the characters are talking directly at you, after a few chapters I started to really connect with the writing style and really liked it. There was elements of dark humour among what were quite sad stories of small town life. The stories are sort of stand alone but there is small threads of connection within them all it does have short story feel to it . While nothing as such really happens the books has good pace and finishes up nicely with one character "mouthing" a conclusion to each of the stories told. The stories have real heart and make you think, you can see why the characters do what they do, the feel true to life, they seem like everyday people and as we all know everyday people have a lot to hide which in turn gives full to gossip and talk tales.

This book has an unusual style that some readers might not like but I did, it flowed well and the characters were all well written. There is a dark humour throughout that reminded me of Graham Nortons writing.

Fans of the pre mentioned Norton and Meave Binchy will enjoy this uniquely styled book.

Stick with it and you will "mouthing" it praise

On side note I loved Mona she was wicked in the best possible way, reminded me of Mrs Doyle from father Ted

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This was a beautiful multigenerational story, although I struggled with the writing style/pacing. I loved reading about certain characters, but as soon as I’d get my teeth stuck into them, the chapter and POV would change. I think the writing style does give it a bit of uniqueness, however it just didn’t work for me. The overall story, albeit a bit slow, was still lovely to read.

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Mouthing by Orla Mackey:

This is a novel presented in a first person narrative; with the residents of an Irish village telling their history. In this sense, it’s a disjointed narrative, with a flashback/flash forward structure, with names and events growing in significance as they become relevant.

In that sense, it’s a novel with literary ambition, with the minor nod to Larkin, the major nod the Dylan Thomas. It’s also a novel where the author has the economy of vision to tell the story in a short period of time (roughly 250 pages). However, the dizzying pace of the construction requires constant attention. Readers who can give it the space and study it requires will love it, others may find it unsatisfying and feel that that half the tale is not what they need. It’s published by Hamish Hamilton on May 30th and I thank them for a preview copy.

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Set in the fictional rural village of Ballyrowan, “Mouthing” takes the form of short interviews or excerpts from the points of view of various characters living in the area, similar to an oral history. From the first of these excerpts, I was hooked.

Mackey’s prose is evocative and realistic in a way that immediately grips the reader. The characters feel real, and I could almost hear their voices through her writing.

The author has succeeded in not only creating well-developed characters, but an entire community, underpinned by an intricate web of relationships that weave through generations from the mid-twentieth century to the early 2000s. This web is uncovered gradually through the various insights and windows into the lives of individual families, friends, and neighbours over time.

The format of the book gives us the opportunity to see characters through each other’s eyes as well as their own, and to hear different sides of the same stories, often coloured by rumour or perspective. This creates a sense of uncertainty at times as the reader is left to wonder which characters are reliable narrators.

In the final section, we meet an older character who has lived in Ballyrowan throughout his life. He reminisces and shares his memories of many local characters, giving his own perspective of life in Ballyrowan over the years, and touching on several of the stories told throughout the book.

I’ll definitely be buying a physical copy of this book when it’s released, and look forward to reading more by Orla Mackey in the future.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin General UK/Hamish Hamilton for the advance copy of this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own and this review will be shared on Goodreads, StoryGraph, and Threads the week of publication (27/05/24).

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I liked the premise of Orla Mackey’s Mouthing. It put me in mind of Robert Seethaler’s The Field in which the dead remember their village, filled with all the gossip, machinations and scandalmongering you might expect from such a small community. Mackey’s debut tells the story of Ballygowan, tucked away in rural Ireland, over several generations beginning in the 1960s.
The characters tell their own stories in a vivid vernacular, much of it threaded through with an enjoyably dark humour. Each has their own distinct voice and Mackey’s not afraid to take risks – a man watches his wife from the grave, hoping for her happiness while a little girl, desperate for her mother’s love is left alone to fend for herself – both tricky narrative tricks to pull off but Mackey does it beautifully. Characters are not short of opinions about their fellow villagers, some sharp-tongued and judgemental, others more forgiving. They take a lively interest in the business of others but many have secrets of their own to protect and there are tragedies whose effects are far reaching. Jim Hickey’s final section neatly brings the preceding narratives together, fleshing out a few of the minor characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this cleverly constructed debut, written with a pleasingly acerbic wit and a sharp eye for human nature balanced with compassion. Looking forward to whatever Mackey comes up with next.

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Nothing horrified me more than the idea of living in a small village where everyone knows everything about you... however, I quite like reading about it.
This is a great example, various characters, each with their own stories, woven in and out of each others lives.
There's usually a connection somewhere and another side to the same story.
It covers a lot of emotions for me.... a great read.

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