In its own solitary way this book is a thing of beauty and I hope it gets a nod next year when it’s time for handing out awards and being listed on distinguished and best books lists. It’s a story of sorrow, vengeance, loneliness, abuse and loss.
The story is narrated by the main character, Maurice Hannigan, as he tells the tale of his life and how he became the man he is and the people who helped him become that man. Now as an old man he looks back upon mistakes, the events that formed his character and some of his regrets. Five people, five toasts and his entire life in one evening.
The natural inclination of man or woman is to look back upon their lives as they grow older, especially if they are nearing the end of their time. The author really captures this nostalgic mood and how conflicted Hannigan feels about certain situations and people in his life.
One of the more poignant moments is when Hannigan has no choice but to put himself in the shoes of the man he has hated his whole life. Not that it makes that man less of a muppet, but it does give Hannigan a different perspective on certain behaviour and events he had to endure. Sometimes we only see one side of the story, which is often coloured by our own frame of reference and emotional involvement.
Griffin has a natural flair for writing and telling a story. With the most basic of recipes, one man and his drink of choice, just his voice and his memories – the author gives us a deep well of emotions, caustic commentary and breathtaking honesty. The reader lifts their drink and toasts alongside Hannigan, as he contemplates and reminisces the many decades of calculated moves. It’s a subtle and spectacular read.