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LEONARD AND HUNGRY PAUL

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Leonard and Hungry Paul are two friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st century. It's impossible to describe this book without using "gentle" and "charming" a lot. Leonard and hungry Paul are two slightly weird besties; Leonard eventually gets a girlfriend and Hungry Paul finds a job, while Paul's sister gets married. That is about it. Nothing terrible happens. Nothing dramatic happens. It's a very quiet, kind, gentle depiction of moderately flawed, basically kind people gently living together and managing to get along.

The descriptions of his loneliness, and his “sudden” awareness of it, are so sad to read. It’s so hard not to feel sorry for the feelings he is having. Always on the periphery, with that awkwardness many of us feel at times. Oh Leonard! He’s very conscious, he says, that those who have made the most difference in his own life are self-effacing people who often go unchampioned. “I’m not naturally like that. My wife is a naturally kind person and she’s had a very good influence on me. One of the nice things about One Dublin One Book is that friends of my mother have got in touch and said, ‘I didn’t know you were a writer,’ and I’m able to send them a copy and say, ‘This is inspired by kind people like you were to me.’” This book was one of their 2019 publications – and one which featured in so many 2019 book of the year lists by bloggers/reviewers whose opinions I rate that I had to read it. One I can already see featuring on my 2020 “best of” list.Though not autobiographical, it is a tribute to the kindness I have experienced all my life and which can sometimes seem absent, largely because it is so often expressed in private.It is also beautifully crafted - I highlighted so many passages in my kindle copy that I struggled to select one or two to include in this review, although as a life insurance actuary I loved this towards the novel's end:

The three of them . had always seen themselves as bumpers along the blowing lane for him to bounce between, saving him from mundane dangers and guiding him towards his achievements, modest though they were. A chance meeting with Shelley – the fire warden – at work, has Leonard thinking that there could be something there. That the future could look different. He feels butterflies he hasn’t felt in ages. As a small publisher without the heft and marketing budget to roll out a massive campaign for our books, the One Dublin One Book is, without going all Kate Winslett, the best thing ever to have happened to us at Bluemoose and I’d like to thank Mairead Owens. and her team for choosing Leonard and Hungry Paul.

She was [in her stories] always using phrases like “There was an empty chair by the door”. You know, trying to be depressing, because she thought it was more writerly. A heart-warming and hilarious novel about life, love, and the weight of all we leave unsaid, Duffy Son is a quietly moving masterpiece from one of Ireland’s most gifted comic writers. It had taken someone with the special insight of Hungry Paul to realise the answer to the problem, strange though it seemed, was to get people to do nothing.” One Dublin One Book aims to encourage everyone in Dublin to read a designated book connected with the capital city during April every year. This annual project (previously known as Dublin One City One Book) is a Dublin City Council initiative, led by Dublin City Libraries, and promotes reading for pleasure.

If I don't believe in events, I don't believe in the characters. If I don't believe in the characters, I don't care about the characters. If I don't care about the characters, I don't care about the book. Leonard and Hungry Paul is the debut novel by Irish writer Ronan Hession, though many at home will be familiar with his music, performed under the moniker Mumblin’ Deaf Ro. Published by UK based Bluemoose Books, it has has built and perpetuated considerable momentum since its release, and was nominated for the Irish book of the Year Awards. So many moments resonated with me. I'm an introvert, one who hasn't been brave enough to drop the mask, but that doesn't mean that I haven't known excruciating moments of social awkwardness. If I'm honest, I am probably closest to Grace, who spends her days being super-efficient at work but needs a boyfriend she can trust enough to be a flake with at home. This was one of the observations I enjoyed the most. I am fortunate enough to have a Leonard. What kindnesses is he referring to? “There was a lot of pressure on my mother to keep everything together, and her whole group of friends were a great support to the family,” he says. “And neighbours. Leonard is a sort of an adjunct member of Hungry Paul’s family and I was a bit like that for other families on the street. They would bring me out on trips in a way that didn’t make me self-conscious… I remember there were football managers or parents of other guys on the [football] team where when I had to go to a trial and when my mother was working they would drive me to Blanchardstown, wait for me to play, then drive me home. If I did that once in my life, I’d be telling everyone about.”Leonard and Hungry Paul are two friends in their thirties. Leonard lives alone these days, his mother having passed away recently. His work involves writing children's encyclopedias, which he enjoys, but doesn't seem to get a lot of credit for. Hungry Paul lives with his parents, who are retired, and occasionally fills in as a postman. Leonard visits his pal's house to play board games and the whole family often join in. Their discussion these days mostly revolves around the upcoming wedding of Grace, Hungry Paul's sister. But Leonard has other stuff on his mind too. For one thing, he has made the acquaintance of Shelley, a girl at work, and this has set all kinds of thoughts in motion. It might even prove a solution to his growing loneliness. And Hungry Paul has entered a competition to come up with a new sign-off phrase for the local Chamber of Commerce. These might seem like small events for most people, but for the two friends, they are significant, and this sets in motion a momentous few weeks in their otherwise quiet lives. Photograph: peepo/Getty Images The protagonist blames a missed penalty for the decline of his whole town.

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