Shall We Gather at the River
Shall We Gather at the River by Peter Murphy: a small town, a river, a flood. Winter 1984. Over a period of fourteen days, nine souls enter the water . . .
We are temporarily only able to ship Faber Shop orders to addresses in the UK.
Shall We Gather At The River tells the story of Enoch O’Reilly, the great flood that afflicts his small town, and the rash of mysterious suicides that accompany it. Charlatan, Presleyite and local radiovangelist, O’Reilly is a man haunted by the childhood ghosts of his father’s sinister radio set… a false prophet destined for a terrible consummation with that old, evil river.
A suicide mystery and a rich patchwork narrative of legend, myth, occult inheritance, eco-conspiracy, viral obsession, airwaves, water and death, Shall We Gather At The River is a spellbinding piece of work, marked by prose that is by turns haunting, poetic and blackly humourous. With shades of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, of Twin Peaks and Wisconsin Death Trip, Shall We Gather At The River is a novel that will further cement Murphy’s reputation as one of the most original and exciting novelists to emerge in recent years.
At its best, the book operates almost like a collection of linked short stories, and there are sections that stand alone as absorbing performances in their own right. The prose is both evocative and slippery, characterised by a kind of evasive bombas ... the effect of the book is, quite appropriately, like that of listening to a shortwave radio being flicked up and down the frequencies ... there are enough moments of poignancy and lyrical force to make tuning in a worthwhile endeavour.
Murphy's rural Ireland feels thrillingly unpredictable, if not downright malevolent ... Murphy rightly eschews easy answers when it comes to explaining the tragedy and, at its best, his prose is as eerily hypnotic as the river of the book's title.
This tale, full of foreboding, is delivered through chapters of prose, journal entries, news reports, radio broadcasts and interviews. Add a moody mix of Irish folklore, myth, superstition, sensationalism and religious hysteria with a subtle and affecting use of language, and you have a strange and engaging novel that can easily be read in one sitting.
Perhaps the thing that stops this from being a dull novel about the horrors of fate is that it isfunny. Ornate, even grotesque, comic episodes are a significant part of its charm ... Murphy moves into and out of various characters' voices with ease and grace ... wonderful portrayals of how we try to re-narrate ourselves and our lives, even if our new stories don't last long enough.
The myth and mist-soaked cloth of his work is woven through with a distinctly gothic rhythm and rhyme, a tautness of telling and ear for phrase. Shall We Gather at the River? - the title comes from a Victorian hymn - grabs you with this cocktail on the very first page and doesn't let go until the wild ride is over... a pummeling, relentless prose-track of fire, brimstone, black comedy and rock'n'roll.
Peter Murphy can write like an angel. Well, like a bad angel - a clarification he'd probably prefer. His gaze is mischievous, and he delights in words and can nail things and people with incisive descriptions that can be startling or funny but are always lucid. He has a showman's zest for the flamboyant, the baroque, the subverted cliche and lyrical phrase. Echoes of other writers - Pat McCabe, Angela Carter, Flannery O'Connor, Samuel Beckett - reveal his good taste. And he has a gift that is much rarer in writers than it should be: a sense of rhythm, a feel for the way sentences follow each other to carry the reader with them. Murphy is also a musician, and it shows.
Browse a selection of books we think you might also like, with genre matches and a few wildcards thrown in.