Sunday, 31 March 2013
By Stephen O'Donnell. Ringwood Publishing. This is the debut novel by up and coming Glasgow Author Stephen O'Donnell and follows the lives of Kevin McGarry and several other football fans during the nineties and beyond, warts and all, the good, the bad and the ugly. Kevin has a very promising footballing career ahead of him until injury forces him to try and navigate a new direction in life, a life consisting of alcohol, girls, friendships and his beloved Celtic. It is a story of changes, a story of growing up within a culture of sectarianism, a story of broken dreams, laughter and cultural adversity. As a self confessed bookaholic and football fan this book ticked a lot of boxes for me before I had even turned the first page. This is in many ways an unconventional book, you don't necessarily have any major blockbusting plot to grab hold of, the point of view changes from one character to another several times (and it isn't always immediately obvious who is speaking or thinking) but for me this unconventional style was one of its strengths. Lets not mess around here, Stephen O'Donnell can really write, Paradise Road is fresh and written with an efficacious combination of wit, realism and social commentary. Like the main character I have Irish blood in me and am maybe quarter Irish (or maybe a fifth Irish) but unlike Kevin McGarry my family settled in the North West of England and I am a Wigan Athletic fan and not a Celtic fan. But as a football fan I loved how the story transported me onto a bus full of crazy Celtic supporters and onto the terraces of Celtic Park and into a collection of dodgy Scottish pubs! This is a must for any book loving football fans, not only is it hilariously entertaining, it is also thought provoking and touching. Maybe I should get along to Celtic Park at some point and I really wish Scottish football would get it's act together. 5/5 A promising debut novel.