Book Review: NAMA Mia! – Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
They just keep coming (as Ross no doubt would boast).
Paul Howard’s 2000 smash-hit, The Miseducation of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, should have been the definition of a one-hit wonder. Razor-sharp, brilliantly observed and absolutely of its time, but without the emotional depth to sustain a long-running saga. But instead, here we are eleven books later, and the adventures of Dublin’s favourite It-boy continue, and keep selling in huge numbers. Helped by a weekly Irish Times column and a very interactive Twitter presence, Ross has developed from obnoxious schoolboy to slightly-less-obnoxious father of two, running his own ‘document disposal business’ (Shred Focking Everything!) in post-Tiger Dublin. This latest book finds him starting a new relationship with an older woman (Nordie cougar Regina Rathfriland), struggling to be a decent father to his two very different children, Ronan and Honor, trying to cling on to his never-quite-over relationship with estranged wife Sorcha, and embroiling himself in an unexpected feud with next-door neighbours – and gangland criminals – Terry and Larry. There are plenty of laughs, the usual killer lines from Ross, and even the odd bit of pathos; as the series has progressed, Howard has toned down some of the more nasty elements of Ross’ personality, and over the years he’s become a slightly softer, more sympathetic guy.
For this reader, however, there’s something of a sense of déjà vu about the whole affair. It’s not that the writing is any less good than it was at the beginning; it’s just that the freshness of the premise and the style, which were a large part of the appeal, has grown a little stale, and reading phonetically-spelled Dublinese has started to become more work for less reward. In some ways, Howard was a curious beneficiary of d’Recession; it gave the series new direction, and a chance to broaden the settings and cast of characters. But, even with that, we’re left wondering just how long the story of Ross can run. And what else Howard might be capable of, once he finally lets this eternal schoolboy head off into the sunset – in an Audi A8 convertible with a cracking bird at his side, natch.