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Review: The Eighty-Five Billion Euro Man by Donal Conaty


THIS is a very curious book that probably best falls under the category of farce or satire.

Written by blogger Donal Conaty, it is a work of fiction which name checks many living people and is based around Ireland's bailout last year.

It is funny in parts in a ribald and childish way. A description of Brian Lenihan as "a fervent believer in whatever he happens to be saying, even if he's reading it for the first time," drew laughs from this reviewer and there are more perceptive jokes along the same lines.

The novel is a first-person singular account of the bailout written by an imaginary IMF official with Irish roots.

Among the many characters are Ajai Chopra and an imaginary senior Department of Finance official called Dermot Mulhearn who is portrayed as the man who really runs the show and who is completely unable to adapt to the crisis.

Shortly after the IMF team lands in Dublin, Mulhearn orders Lenihan to book a table for two and informs him that he won't be one of the two.

This is clearly not a serious book and many readers will undoubtedly regard it as a missed opportunity.

The author makes no attempt to imagine what the bailout negotiations were really like and plays to the gallery for laughs instead.

This can be wearying at times but Conaty is an amusing story teller and shows some insights.

It is a strange feature of the present crisis that serious authors in Ireland have all but ignored what is going on around us.

In England, they have important writers such as Justin Cartwright and Sebastian Faulkes writing novels which explore the recession.

In Ireland we have chick-lit and numerous re-workings of old and often hackneyed themes.

For this alone, Conaty deserves some praise. The book is also nicely printed by publisher Y Books although the large font and wide margins suggest that the former blogger struggled at times to fill the pages.

One day somebody will write an authoritative account of the few days that brought the Celtic Tiger to a definitive end.

That account will have to be well researched, balanced and serious.

It may in turn become a play or even a film exploring the tremendous strains that all the main actors endured and the moral choices that they faced.

'The Eighty-Five Billion Euro Man' is none of these things but you would have to have a heart of stone not to have a chuckle at least now and again while reading it.

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