Review published on July 20, 2017.
Denis Murphy is a little different. He counts numbers and is obsessively neat. Anything slightly out of place or dirty can ruin his whole day. We know Denis has had trauma, but what it is takes its time to rear its ugly head in this book. In the meantime, we are introduced to Denis’ four flatmates, who are even stranger than he is. His ‘real’ friends, Ollie and Frank are used to Denis’ strange ways and accommodate him, adhering to a strictly regimented routine when they meet up with him so as not to upset him. But the flatmates are … well … very whacky indeed.
Denis is a strange character and I must admit on reading the first few chapters I was confused by his housemates, who are an evil clown, a feline femme fatale, a mad professor and a mute furball. Yes … exactly. These four make Denis’ life even more complicated by wrecking the flat and moving things about just to wind Denis up. They’re intimidating and upset him at every opportunity.
However, as I read on in the book, I began to like their strange set up. Rebecca, Denis’ ex-girlfriend, turns up from travelling and the whole of Denis’ life starts to take an unwelcome turn. He is safe in his own, new little world but Rebecca wants her old Denis back. And so we begin to see the ‘real’ Denis Murphy – The Guy Before Things Happened.
This is a clever book, never sentimental but keeping just that side of humorous without laughing at the central character, who is struggling with his mental health through an event that has severely traumatised him. Denis can’t accept affection and he even keeps his own mum at arm’s length. Human contact is kept to a bare minimum with only those who Denis trusts implicitly. He simply can’t deal with anyone or anything else in the here and now.
Through his friends’ help, we see a different Denis emerge. The author handles this delicately and with compassion. Denis is fighting with his inner demons and it’s horrible, fascinating, touching and frightening to behold. For a book that I took a while to get into, I ended up absolutely loving it. You won’t have read anything like this before and by the end I had a tear in my eye. Yes, I did.
This is an unusual, quirky and bizarre novel, but only in the best possible way. It’s a debut novel and perhaps one that I wouldn’t have chosen ordinarily. Tell your friends to read this. It’s also the winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary award so don’t just take my word for it.
Tragic and comic are hard to weave together but Dan Mooney’s done it. And then some. Highly recommended.
K.C. MacKenzie 5/5
Me, Myself and Them by Dan Mooney
Legend Press 9781785079252 pbk Jun 2017