A Tiger in Eden, Chris Flynn

This book came courtesy of the good folk at textpublishing and I have to say that off the bat it wasn’t something that would normally attract my reading attention. On the surface, this book traces the journey of an Irish man wanted for ‘things’ he did back in Ireland. To survive, he has travelled to Thailand where he is living an idyllic but tortured existence romping from beach to beach and woman to woman.

But that is just one element of this story, and a sometimes superfluous one at that.

What this book is really about is a man’s struggle to negotiate the minefield of his past, to learn to accept responsibility for actions that he chose to take and then to be able to move forward and actually know and like himself in his truest form. For me, it was this that was at the core of this novel.

I am still unsure whether or not Flynn has actually managed to pull off this challenging weave of Irish rebel replete with ‘No Surrender’ tattoo and soul-searching individual perched in the strange embrace of a monk’s meditation retreat. I agree with what Rob Minshall at the ABC Weekend Bookworm has noted:

… if anything, and considering his supposedly violent past and bigoted beliefs, Billy’s character is a little too sensitive. An Australian girl composing songs on the beach moves him to tears at one stage of the novel, he falls in love awfully quickly, he enjoys a good book and, considering his years as a sectarian street fighter, he’s terribly perceptive about cultural differences.

I do think that the ending came together too easily and that has let the book down a bit. I wanted more than just a sweet happy sunset. It didn’t seem to do the subtext of this novel justice.

What I do know is that I read this book and enjoyed it, it made me think about people I would not have otherwise thought about, in a way that I definitely would never have considered appropriate for their stereotype. I warmed to this different approach and in this way, the book was, for me, successful.

“You think I don’t know what the world’s like sure I seen more than most men could stand and I done things I’m not proud of … I done enough bad shit in my life and I need to get myself sorted out before it’s too late, maybe it is already maybe I’m just kidding myself on but I got nothing left no more enthusiasm for nothing I’ve just got to stop and face up to the world before it crushes me like the f*cking worthless bug that I am.”

I couldn’t help but like Billy and I liked him even more when I read this interview with Flynn which I think adds enormously to the book.

This is definitely worth a read and I will be watching out for more from this debut author.

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4 responses to “A Tiger in Eden, Chris Flynn

  1. Great review Justine. I’ve just read it too. I love the succinct way you’ve described it. I’m not sure I totally agree with you and Minshall, though you both have a point. Do we know how long he’s been wandering around Thailand before we meet him? I can’t recollect but I can accept him as he is. The novel does rather rush to a conclusion … though it is almost a novella so I don’t find that too much of a problem. It is a pretty predictable conclusion though isn’t it.

  2. Interestingly, a friend noted today that this novel is a disappointing version of Shantaram and in many ways I think I agree … although perhaps this is a good excuse to read Shantaram again … did anyone hear that he was coming out with a sequel?

    • Ah, I didn’t read Shantaram. It’s a huge novel isn’t it?

      • Yes, definitely one for the e-reader as it’s a bugger to hold! It’s almost all perfectly brilliant. I found myself losing interest toward the middle when he was in Afghanistan, but apart from that little lapse, it was a stupendous read.

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