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Book Review by Ifedinma Dimbo

Last update - Friday, April 12, 2013, 10:46 By Metro Éireann

One-Inch Punch by Oran Ryan (Seven Towers)


Oran Ryan is a Dublin native with two critically acclaimed novels to his name in The Death of Finn and Ten Short Novels. One-Inch Punch is his third novel, in which we meet the gifted Gordon Brock. Growing up, nobody wants Gordon as a friend because he was always one step ahead and, one way or the other, he will upstage you. But Brock is only a child: he wants friends, he needs friends. And his strategies and great efforts at remedying this friendless situation result in endless bullying, ostracism and loneliness.

One particular ‘friend’ – out of jealousy, and whatever else makes people bullies – takes things to a head when he beats up Gordon to the point of unconsciousness. Gordon recovers physically, but is traumatised, and everything for him from this point on is overshadowed by this life-changing event. And so he plots his revenge – till one afternoon, 20 years later, while out doing his Christmas shopping, he encounters this ‘friend’ once more.

In One-Inch Punch I want to believe that the author embedded the notions of forgiveness and jealousy in the fabrics of the text. Reading through I came to see how these two notions impede self-freedom for both the protagonist and his one particular aggressor. We spend our lived lives dodging and confronting punches; how well you do these things underpins your well-being and happiness. Gordon believes he worked this out for himself a long time ago, even as a child. But did he really?

Ryan appears to write from a place of knowing, a certain level of assuredness that conceals his punches. His use of footnotes is interesting in its cunningness, giving the novel a certain flair that adds to the intrigue. Antonio Lobo Antunes is called to mind here.

This novel, I believe, is designed to be thought-provoking, and it does hit its marks. However, Ryan does tend to have a roundabout way of getting to the point that raised my hackles. Perhaps it is a Dublin thing, perhaps it’s me, perhaps it was intended. But still, One-Inch Punch is good read.


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