Wednesday 22 November 2017

Book Club: Tenderwire by Claire Kilroy

Claire Kilroy's drama is an 'engrossing', 'tense' and 'unnerving' book

Welcome to the Irish Independent Book Club where every month we bring you a compelling reading choice, from crime and mystery novels, to classics and contemporary fiction. Each month, we visit a different book club around the country and get their verdict.

This month's pick is Tenderwire by Claire Kilroy, published by Faber & Faber.


Eva Tyne, an Irish violinist living and working in New York, collapses after her solo debut and is rushed to hospital. Still dazed after the incident, she embarks on a chaotic and dangerous odyssey.

Leaving her steady partner, she falls for a mysterious man, and shortly afterwards comes across a mysterious rare violin, for which she must raise the required payment in cash in less than a week.

But, haunted by the ghost of her father, racked with jealousy, and unsure whom she can trust around her, Eva soon finds herself playing a dangerous psychological game as her desires threaten to destroy her.


Claire Kilroy was born in Dublin in 1973, and educated at Trinity College. In 2002 she received an Arts Council Literature Award.

Her first novel All Summer was published in 2003 and won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Tenderwire was published in 2006, and went on to be shortlisted for the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel Award. Kilroy's latest novel All Names Have Been Changed was published last year to great international acclaim.


The Gutter Bookshop Reading Group meets once a month in the Gutter Bookshop in Cow's Lane, Temple Bar. It was formed earlier this year and is open for anyone to attend. Each meeting usually has 15-20 in attendance, and it tends to fill up quickly. There is a waiting list, and anyone wishing to put their name down should go to The group is moderated by Gutter Bookshop worker Bob Johnston, who selects either a contemporary or classic book choice every month.


On the whole, the reading group found Tenderwire to be a "challenging" and "engrossing" read. Some in the group called it "perplexing" and even read it a second time to fully grasp what was happening.

"I liked it, though I was a bit sceptical at first," says Ann-Marie Kelly. "It was fascinating to read about an experience so different to my own. I thought it was really well written. I was on edge the whole way through, though I don't know if that entirely added to it." Niamh Cooney admits that she "couldn't put it down -- I read it faster than I would other books."

Rosemary McLoughlin adds: "It's a very tense novel. I've read it twice now and it still unnerves me." Janet Day also read the book a second time. "Some of the images used are incredible. I found so much more in it the second time round. Eva is a fascinating character -- and irritating too."

Indeed, Eva is absolutely central to Tenderwire, as the novel is narrated in her voice, making her one of contemporary literature's great unreliable narrators. "She's hard to like at the beginning," admits Gavin Finlay. "It's hard to get a grasp of her. For instance there isn't much description of her, though you slowly start to piece it together. Honestly, I thought for a while that Eva was bipolar. She seems very irrational and impulsive. The author manipulates that very cleverly. You have to go inside Eva's head in order to understand it all. That's very difficult."

In response to Rosemary McLoughlin's view that Eva was "a user", Bob Johnston says: "I don't think she's a calculating person. But she isn't self-aware. She's incredibly self-involved as I imagine musicians and athletes would have to be in order to be the best."

Yvonne Reilly was struck by the experience of "witnessing someone at the lowest point in her life. I had a horrible first impression of Eva, but she redeems herself later on. That said, if you met her in real life, you'd probably find her very annoying."

Several members of the group picked up on the novel's distinct lack of 'Irishness'. "You don't get the sense that Eva is Irish until very late in the book," observes Rosemary McLoughlin. Gavin Finlay continues: "I liked that aspect. She wasn't Irish per se, nor did she need to be." Family -- or the lack thereof -- are also a key focus of the novel. "I think buying the violin was a big stupid attempt to subconsciously get her father back," says Yvonne Reilly. "His absence is keenly felt throughout. We learn he was friends with Charlie Haughey, which leads me to suspect he had money set aside and did a runner."

Bob Johnston adds: "She -- and we -- are constantly waiting for the father to return, and he would in a lesser novel. Kilroy leaves us hanging. "To me, the disappearance of the dad is the crux of the book," says Janet Day. "She's rejected by him, and then rejected by others.

Despite Eva's profession, some readers seemed surprised that they couldn't get a sense of the music in the novel. "It's the idea of losing someone and not knowing what happened to them that propels the book more than anything," says Yvonne Reilly. Still, Bob Johnston thinks it's a novel "with a very rhythmic feel to its prose. It's quite intense and so I think it matches the way the violin is played."


Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. If your book club would like to take part in our monthly book club feature, or if you are reading next month's choice along with us and would like us to include your thoughts on the book, please contact or Irish Independent Book Club, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1.

Declan Cashin

Irish Independent

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