Prophet Song

Paul Lynch

Prophet Song
Oneworld Publications
United Kingdom
24 August 2023

Prophet Song

Paul Lynch

Winner of The Booker Prize 2023

On a dark, wet evening in Dublin, scientist and mother-of-four Eilish Stack answers her front door to find the GNSB on her doorstep. Two officers from Ireland's newly formed secret police want to speak with her husband, Larry, a trade unionist for the Teachers' Union of Ireland.

Things are falling apart. Ireland is in the grip of a government that is taking a turn towards tyranny. And as the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, Eilish finds herself caught within the nightmare logic of a collapsing society - assailed by unpredictable forces beyond her control and forced to do whatever it takes to keep her family together.

Exhilarating, terrifying, propulsive and confrontational, Prophet Song is a work of breathtaking originality and devastating insight, a novel that can be read as a parable of the present, the future and the past.


‘History is a silent record of people who did not know when to leave.’

As the clouds of political change enshroud a modern Ireland, the newly powerful Nationalist Alliance Party (NAP) is enacting tighter and tighter authoritarian measures, infringing upon more civil liberties by the day. People are disappearing from their homes, their offices, the street. Scientist Eilish Stack is uncertain of the new regime’s severity until her unionist husband, Larry, vanishes from a teachers’ march.

Eilish must now manage her four children – teenagers that wish to do more, a child who doesn’t quite get it, and an infant, blissfully unaware – alongside her dementia-affected father, militant secret police, and an increasingly monitored workplace. Old friends are now divided along party lines: does your lapel glint with the badge of the party, or is your neck laced with white chiffon in rebellion?

It begins with the union, but suddenly it is a neighbour, a clerk, a schoolboy killed in the name of nationalism. When bodies return mangled with the causes of death supposedly benign, people begin to leave. Is that what is right for the Stacks? With a nation descending into war, Eilish must confront her own notions of morality, convention, and human rights in her own country.

Paul Lynch constructs a lyrical, devastating exploration of the political, social, and emotional fallout of an authoritarian takeover. Reminiscent of the poetry of Seamus Heaney and the prose of Cormac McCarthy, Lynch’s writing sustains a unique, enchanting narrative voice. Laced with confusion, corruption, and conflict, Prophet Song is a dystopian lament that exquisitely uses the iconic imagery of Ireland, along the lines of James Joyce, to create an atmospherically overwhelming novel, warning of the potential woes of a modern-day fascist purge.

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