Colin O’Sullivan is one of the most remarkable and original writers currently turning out one outstanding novel after another. Killarney Blues was the author’s debut, which won the French Prix Mystère de la Critique, followed by The Starved Lover Sings, and his latest, The Dark Manual. Having been amazed and delighted with reading two of the novels, I recently finished The Starved Lover Sings and sat for a while to let it digest.
Over the mountains behind me, the Atlantic Ocean washed ashore hundreds of miles away, and I could not have felt safer. Not so with Tombo, “the dragonfly,” who has survived on an island much like Japan, after it was laid to ruin by earthquakes and a deadly tsunami that killed millions.
Tombo is a 30-year-old PE teacher and occasional soccer referee, who is the brunt of verbal and physical abuse during and after each game. He has also caught the eye of two very strange young female students, who have erotic plans for him. His eyes, he finds, linger a bit too long on the shapely figure of his sister-in-law, who spends time at Tombo’s house with her sister.
Tombo’s wife lies in bed all day and night, heartbroken, barely subsisting, numb to all around her after the loss of their dear precious gem, Ruby. Their lovely little daughter was swallowed by the sudden giant waves. Taken while her husband and Ruby ran up the mountain, trying to get away, the water roaring behind them and closing in. Her dad urging her to run faster, but not being able to keep his grip as she is pulled under and lost.
Tombo now wanders the streets at night with grief his companion, as well as the assorted street people who also make the night their home. While the carrion wolves watch from the darkness above a broken land that waits for the next tectonic shift and mud slides.
How much can one man take? How much loss can one endure? Why could he not have been a hero?
The Starved Lover Sings is a haunting read, its devastating beauty a flooding impact on the reader.
A cluster of words, a jagged snippet, and phrases on the pages that pounce like those wolves in the night.
There is a refracted blues feeling that pervades much of Colin O’Sullivan’s novel, unlike any other. A rhythmic and harmonic ingenuity. The clarity of his writing.
The Starved Lover Sings does just that. It sings.