On an island off the west coast of Ireland, the Moone family are shattered by tragedy.
Murtagh Moone is a potter and devoted husband to Maeve, an actor struggling with her most challenging role yet – being a mother to their four children. Now Murtagh must hold his family close as we bear witness to their story before that tragic night.
We return to the day Maeve and Murtagh meet, outside Trinity College in Dublin, and watch how one love story gives rise to another. And as the Moone children learn who their parents truly are, we journey onwards with them to a future that none of the Moones could predict . . .
Except perhaps Maeve herself.
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a celebration of the complex, flawed and stubbornly optimistic human heart.
The Truth Must Gradually Dazzled definitely dazzled, with its wonderful narrative and examination of a family built on love and the darkness of mental illness.
The Moone families guiding light was the wonderfully complicated Maeve. On the surface fun, outgoing, a magnet to all around her, but as would be husband Murtagh discovered Maeve had a dark side, one that swallowed her up and dogged her relentlessly.
Cullen’s great skill was her ability to go inside Maeve’s mind, the agony and anguish leapt from the pages, the constant thoughts that she was never good enough both as a wife and a mother. You felt the suffocation of the darkness that often engulfed her, the imaginary brick wall that blocked her means of escape, but you also admired her coping mechanism, the requisite medication thrown out the window in favour of exercise, of busyness. I couldn’t help but feel that Cullen was representing women and, indeed men everywhere, that she truly got to the very essence of mental illness and in some ways it resonated with my own past struggles with mental health. In particular her role as a mother, rang so true, the expectation that it was an all encompassing love and total giving up of oneself, yet you held something back, if only to preserve some form of your own identity, afraid of the dependance another human being had over you.
Murtagh, her husband, was her rock, a man who tried and failed to understand, but accepted her for who she was, gave her the space she needed, loved unconditionally. Cullen showed a man marred by tragedy, almost stuck in a time warp, unwilling to move forward, afraid the wall he built around him would open wounds and feelings he couldn’t deal with.
Cullen gave us their four children, all so wonderfully different, their coping mechanisms varied and with varying degrees of success and failure. It was Nollaig, the eldest, that for me, encapsulated so well the ramifications of tragedy, the responsibility she felt to care for her brothers and sisters, to look after her father. She maintained the status quo, as Cullen showed a woman unwilling to change just in case, as time stood still and you waited patiently for the crash that you knew had to come.
The shift between the past and the present was seamless, the structure of the novel almost like a diary, a catalogue of a family as it navigated life, flash points that sparked events, individual reactions. You sensed it was building towards something as characters dangled over a cliff edge, their fall imminent, and indeed Cullen surprised me, took the novel to somewhere I didn’t see, the hints hidden so carefully.
Now Cullen, could so easily have set this novel in your average, town, city but she chose to take us to the small island of Inis Og. It offered a rugged landscape, the crashing of the sea against the cliffs, the isolation that so perfectly reflected the bleakness of Maeve’s mental health. The small community, lives led in each others pockets magnified the bad times, cast the spotlight on those involved, left them exposed with no place to hide. But it also showcased a community that pulled together, that enjoyed the good times, closed around and protected its inhabitants.
I really did not want to leave Inis Og, or the Moone family, so brilliantly had Cullen, engulfed me in their lives. I admit to shedding tears, to being so moved by one particular scene that I had to take a moment, to put the book down and reflect. It was a novel that resonated, that had feeling and just wonderful storytelling.
I would like to thank Michael Joseph for a copy of The Truth Must Dazzle to read and to Sriya Varadharajan for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London.
She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010.
Her debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf was published by Penguin in July 2018 in the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa and published in America by Harper Collins in June 2019. The novel is also available in translation in numerous foreign markets including Italy, Germany, Russia, Greece and Israel where it hit the bestseller charts. The TV option for the book has also been acquired by Mainstreet Pictures.
The first draft of this novel was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.
Helen was nominated as Best Newcomer in the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. She is also a contributor to the Irish Times newspaper and Sunday Times Magazine.
Helen is now writing full-time. Her second novel, The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually, will be published in Ireland and the UK on August 20th, 2020 and as The Dazzling Truth in the USA and Canada on August 18th, 2020.