Peter Murphy - John the Revelator (4 stars)

Peter Murphy - John the Revelator

(Faber)

FAMILY DRAMA

That old chestnut, the dysfunctional family saga told from the point of view of a watchful youngster, is energetically revived here by debutant Peter Murphy. The titular character is John Devine, a shy adolescent who dreams of escape from his small-town existence and the oppressive attentions of his Bible-bashing mother Lily. Glamour eventually arrives in the form of new kid in town, Jamey Corboy, with the boys’ burgeoning friendship a welcome distraction from the sadness of their home lives.

With his first novel, Irish journalist Murphy has created that elusive, precious thing, beloved of readers and publishers alike: a real page-turner. The writing is clean and spare, devoid of tricksy turns of phrase and syntactic affectations, but every so often the reader will be brought up short by a particularly insightful observation or arresting image. The keenly perceptive portrayal of a family in crisis is an enviable debut that marks Murphy out as a real talent to watch.

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