HellFire: A Novel

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She is a recovering junkie, given to visions an inheritance from her tarot-reading grandmother , and the issue of a home not so much broken as smithereened. Her reminiscences take in her progression, before the age of 15, through pickpocketing, homosexuality, the gamut of drug use from tobacco to smack, gangsterism, arson and the witnessing of horrific violence.

Her downward spiral begins when she's still in the womb, and is black and steep and extreme. Nayler introduces her to heroin and makes her pay for her fix by watching him have sex with her mother. She is periodically sectioned until one psychotic episode, during which she kills a man in an airport lounge, puts her in prison; we join her on the first day of her release, as she waits in the ruined house on top of a mountain where her younger and less tarnished sister was, some years ago, tortured and killed this sister was often used as a human ashtray by her mother.

This is a web of cruelty so contrived as almost to rival Thomas Harris's Hannibal for ludicrousness, except for one crucial difference - Hellfire is believable.

HellFire by Mia Gallagher

And Gallagher depicts a culture in despair and a society in irreversible meltdown with tremendous compassion and energy. Many will balk at the relentlessness of this large book, but that should not diminish its vitality and importance. While there were certainly positive things going on in terms of the economic boom, there was a lot of pretty nefarious activity. Not just McCarthyism but the Cold War and the rise of the military industrial complex as President Eisenhower warned us about at the end of his presidency. It felt like a period where there could be, on the one level, this very romantic and charming veneer, while underneath there would be huge, nasty battles being fought out of the public eye.

The tolerance of that indecency and smears by people who should have known better. It works on its own, even without looking for any rhyming. Is the main character in the novel, Charlie Marder, based on a real person or is he a composite of people? I was just trying to think of a character who it would be fun to write about and fun to get into his shoes. So I thought of two things that are important to me personally. How different was it to work on fiction as compared to one of your non-fiction books such as The Outpost?

It was very, very different. For The Outpost, I did something like interviews. It was non-fiction, so it was grueling, it was emotionally wrenching to talk to people who had been through what they had been through. The Hellfire Club was emotionally a lot easier, but intellectually more challenging because I was making it all up, and I wanted to be true to the era while also not making it feel like a piece of non-fiction. It was a relief, honestly, because obviously, this news cycle is so demanding and so exhausting and people are so passionate on all sides and it was great to be able to retreat into my own little world of and write about McCarthyism or this fictitious conspiracy.

I mean, that was fun to write. I wanted to be a cartoonist and it never really happened for me. Rarely have I had such mixed feelings of the main character and had so little clue as to how the book will end. Sep 11, Rachel rated it it was amazing.

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A gorgeously devastating epic narrated by a violent junkie who's just been released from prison. It took me a few chapters to warm up to Lucy, but she quickly became one of the most unique and fully realized main characters that I've ever encountered. She addresses her story to a man from her past, and as she tries to make sense of a tragedy that fractured their tumultuous relationship she narrates not only her own childhood, but also her family history, and the birth of gangland Dublin.


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Hellfir A gorgeously devastating epic narrated by a violent junkie who's just been released from prison. Hellfire is difficult to catagorize. It's violent and unrelenting, but also touching and sweet.


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It's part impeccably researched historical fiction, part poetic literary masterpiece, part YA coming of age, part multi-generational family saga, part furious social commentary, and part magical realism. It's a big book, and the first half is slow-going at times. Once Lucy's story reaches the night of the 'event' she's been building up to, however, all the strands start to come together, and the story gallops off at breakneck speed, leading to one hell of an ending that stayed with me long after I finished.

Jul 23, Charlotte rated it it was amazing. I picked this up in an airport in on a whim, mainly because I found the cover attractive! It was a lucky pick for me as I would say this is my all time favourite book.

Yes it's long, the Dublin dialect is initially hard to endure but by the end of a few chapters it just faded into obscurity and actually made the characters more real and solid in my imagination. It's a tale of love, family dynamics probably not the good kind , sexuality, drug abuse, violence and even magic. Mia Gallagher did I picked this up in an airport in on a whim, mainly because I found the cover attractive! Mia Gallagher did an exceptional job with it and I kept looking for further books from her! I've read it several times since first purchasing it and each read through makes me pick up more of the story, I'm still shocked and saddened by the ending.

With it being so long I just want Lucy to be happy! She becomes so real in my head, as does Naylor and I so wish for a happy ending every time I read it, there isn't a book I've read since with characters as in depth as Lucy and none have made me empathise with them quite as much. I think it will forever be my favourite! Don't attempt this book unless you have got a lot of time on your hands it is long and rambling or unless you have a strong stomach as it is unrelentingly grim with some sickening violence and graphic descriptions of drugs and their effects, as well as social deprivation.

It is the story of a junkie, set in Dublin in the '80s and her attempts at finding some meaning to her life. I did get a lot out of it despite it being way too long and it does have some moments of poetic beauty but it was als Don't attempt this book unless you have got a lot of time on your hands it is long and rambling or unless you have a strong stomach as it is unrelentingly grim with some sickening violence and graphic descriptions of drugs and their effects, as well as social deprivation.

Dark, despairing Dublin

I did get a lot out of it despite it being way too long and it does have some moments of poetic beauty but it was also quite hard work. Nov 01, Sheila rated it liked it. My actual rating is 3. Very different from what I expected - basically tells the life story of a heroin addict spanning several decades in the slums of Dublin.

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Lucy the addict narrates, so the writing is more conversational and terse. The dialect takes a bit getting used to, but I commend Gallagher's boldness for writing Lucy's character so in depth and detailing a story with very little redemption - not for the weak of heart. Mar 21, Victoria rated it really liked it Shelves: This was a last grab at the library and I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting to!

I did not guess the ending at all and the story kept me interested and turning pages throughout. Usually with books so long, there are parts which get boring and a bit 'draggy' but that didn't happen with this book. Very pleased I read it!

Sep 28, Maria Quinn rated it it was ok. Try it out for yourself but read a least a few chapters before you decide - let it grow on you.



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