Paul Howard’s reflective look at the layers of Dublin society through the eyes of his main character Ross O’Carroll-Kelly has been with us now since 1998 via newspaper column and 2000 in book form. Not only have the 16 novels, innumerate columns, stage plays and now even through podcast followed the fortunes of Ross, his friends and family but also those of Ireland itself. Born out of hearing Celtic Tiger Cubs in full flight, Ross’s life has gone from privileged want for nothing, carefree teens, through recession hit work and supporting expanding family and back to hope and renewed cash flow.
Game of Throw-ins sees Ross confront the last vestiges of his misspent youth by returning to play AIL club rugby at 35 and juggle the pull of his libido with his familial responsibilities and living up to his bonds of friendship. To go into more detail would wade into spoiler territory.
Unlike most of the other RO’CK instalments which take place over a full year, Throw-ins is much more laser focused on the 6 months it covers. Some might consider this a bridging book between events that have preceded and the next chapter in Ross’s life but this book is much more insightful than that. By narrowing the focus down to Ross again much more than in the last few years with effective B and C plots involving Honour and Ross’s Mum it keeps the focus on what Ross is going through. Throw-ins has fleshed back out, literally and figuratively, the character that had gotten a little lost in the last couple of novels due to the weight of events going on around him. Ross has finally hit the wall we all come to, where we must lay down the things of our youth and become fully fledged adults and not be the centres of our own worlds any more, caring for those around us first more than ourselves. Or at least, trying.
Ross now moves on in to his late 30’s with plenty of high drama swirling around him to keep us all entertained but also enough refocused inner reflectiveness to keep him an interesting and engaging character of many layers. And the close mirroring of Irish culture elevates the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series from a light, entertaining read, to a true reflection of Ireland’s changes in the last 18 years. When we look back on this period of our history, Paul Howard’s creation will be front and centre in the cultural analysis of how we coped with it all.
Game of Throw-ins is published by Penguin Books and available from all good bookshops now.
An Draiocht – An Evening with Paul Howard AKA Ross O’Carroll Kelly is being held Thurs Sept 22nd Tickets Available Here
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Twitter – @RossOCK
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Irish Times Column Archive – /people/ross-o-carroll-kelly
Reviewed by Louise Bermingham