168 x 121 mm PBK
978 0 9551264 3 7
In The Punching Man, Remus, a young Roma boy adrift in Dublin, becomes intrigued by a man he sees punch a stranger on the street. When Remus and his friends begin following the man, it quickly becomes unclear who is following whom. But Remus has even less comprehension of the biggest things in his life: the family who will adopt him, the country he will live in, how he will make his way in a new and daunting city.
In Boys Are Elastic, Girls Are Fantastic, Ruth abandons her life and career in Chicago to move to Dublin. She marries a man she met on holiday there, even though she doesn't fully understand why—at 46—she's suddenly ready to gamble on romance. The life she might have had changes abruptly when she is diagnosed with breast cancer and decides to take a challenging job in the Christian Brothers school where Remus is now a student.
These interlocking novellas, published in one edition, offer two foreigners' perspectives on a city where they quickly find themselves fighting against shadows: a culture they don't understand and don't have access to; bullies on the schoolyard and in the staffroom; a mysterious stranger or a mysterious disease. In this finely observed portrait of Ireland at the turn of the 21st century, Marsha Swan writes with a stark lyricism, giving voice to two very different characters navigating enormous change with hope and dignity.
Marsha Swan is a publisher and the author of Dirty Sky (2005), hailed as 'a compulsive read' by the Irish Independent. She moved from Iowa to Dublin in 1999 and spent several years teaching English as a second language in James's Street CBS and voluntarily with other organisations, as well as working as an editor for The Lilliput Press.
‘Swan's book is a joy to handle. It makes a pleasurable read too … I loved this novella [The Punching Man]. The author clearly has an understanding of how it feels to live in frightening confusion … Taken together, the two novellas paint an insightful portrait of Ireland struggling to come to terms with a new dynamic.’
—Sue Leonard, Books Ireland
‘Swan has written two small tales on the subject [of immigration] that are affecting and quietly damning … an impoverished school seething with wider resentments is the setting for Swan's new work of fiction. [It] is no social polemic, however: despite its realist surface, it is also a low-key parable about the bewilderment of displacement and the pressure to fit in.’
—Mick Heaney, The Sunday Times
‘The two voices are appealing and humanely drawn … pleasantly ordinary and easy to empathise with. Remus thinks wonderfully like a child and removing Ruth slightly highlights her refreshingly selfless outlook. They're not tales of misery at all: this is a Dublin that still has some innocence left … these are pretty snapshots of a time and a place with people thrust flailing into them, challenged to sink or swim.’