“The Brothers’ Lot” by Kevin Holohan (Ireland)
Readers’ enjoyment of this story was strongly influenced by how close they felt to the subject matter. Some found it a difficult book to read, especially since many of the abuses within church-run institutions in Ireland are still coming to light today. Readers who had the benefit of distance from the subject matter enjoyed the book immensely, saying that they thought the author managed to describe a desperate situation with much humour and fabulous wit. They warmed immediately to Finbar Sullivan, one of the main characters, and loved the descriptions of the schoolboys, the teachers and the Brothers, as well as some of the secondary characters like the janitor and his apprentice. They appreciated the nuances that helped evoke many of the scenes really well bringing them visually to life. They found the plot well constructed and loved the build up in tension, both in the physical buildings and in the host of characters, to a fitting finale. One reader suggested it would make a great film and the others couldn’t help but agree! The book averaged an 8.4 out of 10.
At the end of the discussion, readers had the honour and pleasure of connecting with the author Kevin Holohan via Skype from his home in Brooklyn, NY. They were able to ask him questions about the book and so receive more insight into the story behind the story. It was interesting to learn that the book is not set at one particular time but amalgamates the decades from 1940 to 1970. The choice of a well-rounded narrator such as Finbar Sullivan, who is a bright child doing well in school, was intentionally made as a counterbalance to a lot of clichés about the children that attended the Christian Brothers’ schools. It allowed the author to cast him as the spark who would ignite the downfall of a corrupt system. The motivation to write the book was not just Kevin’s own personal experience, but also all the others who had been through similar or worse experiences, and who had “never had a chance to answer back.” Readers thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity that made the evening very special.
“The Brothers’ Lot” is a comic satire that tells the story of the Brothers of Godly Coercion School for Young Boys of Meagre Means, a dilapidated Dickensian institution run by an assemblage of eccentric, insane, and often nasty celibate Brothers. The school is in decline and the Brothers hunger for a miracle to move their founder, the Venerable Saorseach O’Rahilly, along the path to Sainthood… Read more
Nicola’s Book Club reading list
Season 14 – “Satire” (Sep 2011 – Jan 2012)
“A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif (Pakistan)
“Death as a Side Effect” by Ana Maria Shua (Argentina)
“The Brothers’ Lot” by Kevin Holohan (Ireland) *
“Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
“In the United States of Africa” by Abdourahman A. Waberi (Djibouti)
* The book club favourite