Fascism seizes Ireland in the novel 'Prophet Song'

February 15, 2024
book cover, city scape

Prophet Song
By Paul Lynch
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2023
244 pp

Paul Lynch’s Booker Prize-winning novel is set in a near-future Ireland, where the “National Party” has been elected into power and steadily turns up the heat to a boiling point of murderous, full-bore fascism.

By the time Eilish — an intelligent, accomplished mother and professional — realises that she and her surviving family should get out of the country, it is far too late to do so safely.

In this chilling novel, Lynch takes us inside Eilish’s mind as the nightmare slowly unfolds.

Eschewing paragraph breaks and quotation marks, Lynch nonetheless pulls his characters and his readers along on an increasingly terrifying but plausible “bad trip”.

There is little explanation of how fascists rose to seize power in Ireland, a country seen as a model of contemporary liberal democracy, but where — like in the United States — overtly fascist eruptions had taken place.

Through a series of sharp shocks, it does happen, and as the personal and public atrocities mount up, we witness them as Eilish does. We cannot look away, or unsee them.

Read this well paced and well told near-horror story and feel the chill and eerie feeling that yes, alas, this could happen here and to you or to me.

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