At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.
Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan’s East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything. A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that’s ever loved a song.
Published on May 15th, 2014
"Joseph O'Connor's The Thrill of it All uses layered narrative textures with both serious skill and engaging lightness so that the core drama emerges with clarity and wit."
COLM TOIBIN, THE OBSERVER, BOOKS OF THE YEAR, 2014
"There are inspired comic moments in this exuberantly told tale."
JOHN BOLAND, BOOKS OF THE YEAR, IRISH INDEPENDENT
"The best story of the rise and fall of a rock band that I've read. Vivid
in all its details, it's so sharply witty that it made me laugh out loud
every few pages. Smashing, moving stuff."
EMMA DONOGHUE, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF 'ROOM',
SUNDAY BUSINESS POST, BOOKS
OF THE YEAR, 2014.
"Sharply evoked. A vivid, compelling work"
NADINE O'REGAN, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST, BOOKS OF THE YEAR, 2014
"One of my ten favourite novels of 2014"
"Occasionally, you read a sentence that you know couldn't be bettered: it definitively captures a moment and a mood, say, or immortalises an opinion you didn't quite know you had. Joseph O'Connor's new novel is jam-packed with such sentences – paragraph after paragraph of brilliance."
TOBY LITT, THE GUARDIAN
"This is Joe O'Connor at his playful and narrative best. The book is shot through with electricity, packed with sentences that send you spinning, full of joy and sadness and swerve. On one hand The Thrill of It All is the portrait of a band and a musical generation. On the other hand it's a contemplation of one of literature's foremost themes, exile and longing. O'Connor manages to braid these things together in a book that wants to sing in your hand. This was a book to make my tired heart soar. Of all the Irish writers working today, Joe O'Connor speaks better than anyone of what is genuine, what is necessary, and what is ennobling. A thrill indeed."
WINNER OF THE US NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE
MARIELLA FROSTRUP, OPEN BOOK, BBC RADIO 4
"A valentine to that endangered species, the rock and roll band, and a homage to the magic produced by humans playing music in a room."
"A colourful picture, enhanced by details through cleverly placed interview snippets, press clippings and diary entries. The Thrill of it All deals with the dark times and hard graft needed to get somewhere, not just the soaring highs of success. It's so crafted that you end up wishing The Ships were real, and proves that fictional musicians can be written well."
"The perfect soundtrack to your memories of the 1980s."
"The rich gems in this coming-of-age musical tale make it eminently worthwhile."
NADINE O'REGAN, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
"A novel about music, family and friendship...O'Connor brilliantly evokes the 1980s...and superbly evokes the struggles of a naive and yet determined band to survive on the road. This novel is shot through with humour, patois and all the human contradictions that make the characters truly memorable. Don't just buy the book: petition the publishers to release the soundtrack."
DERMOT BOLGER, MAIL ON SUNDAY, five star review
A veritable love letter to the trials and tribulations of being in a band, it’s frequently very funny and is shot through with great pathos too."
JOHN MEAGHER, THE INDEPENDENT
"Completely amazing. So funny you have to put it down to laugh. Then very moving."
JOHN BOYNE, AUTHOR OF THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS.
"As with all of Joseph O’Connor’s novels, it brims with wonderful turns of phrase, humour and the kind of observations that stop you in your tracks. Mostly, though, it’s a coming-of-age story of four 19-year-olds fumbling towards adulthood and the departure of innocence, a nostalgic romp back to the early 1980s, and a love song to popular music. As one of its characters says, “If you can listen to the Beatles doing ‘She Loves You’ and not be a little bit glad you’re alive, you’ve got an answering machine for a heart”.
"Evocative and vibrant, poignant and witty"
"O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea, is warm without being sentimental and he cuts effortlessly between comedy and tragedy."
KATE SAUNDERS, THE TIMES
"A brilliantly conceived and touching novel."
"Hugely entertaining. A vivid joy. O'Connor's prose bounces along with an unforced exuberance that ensures there's never a dull sentence. He's a master...Deftly and tenderly drawn...Very funny and very moving...Ultimately, this is a book about love: love for friends and family, and always and forever, for music...That feeling has rarely been captured as exhilaratingly, and as vividly, as in The Thrill of it All."
ANNA CAREY, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
Tom Sutcliffe, Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4
"The first third of this book is one of the funniest pieces I've read in a long time; it provoked belly-aching, throat-shredding, tear-inducing, helpless laughter in me. The fizz of being young, broke and crazy about music, starting a band, creating songs - such a rush to read about…This is just a wonderful book."
Goodreads.com, May 2014
"It made me laugh out loud several times. I loved Fran."
Pat Kane (of the band Hue and Cry), Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4, May 2014
"O'Connor writes with such passion, such precision, such beautiful sentences, with such an ear for language and with such knowledge and hilarity that this book could only come from an extremely gifted Rock'n'Roll obsessive. A BRILLIANT AND VITAL DOCUMENT."
"A cautionary tale of the struggle, success and salvation of a band in post-punk England. It has the ring of truth in fervent fiction. A story told with skill and insight into the passion that music can inspire."
Steve Rapid - The Radiators from Space
"Some of the funniest, most tender moments are the exchanges between Robbie, the rebellious son, and his staid but loving father...O’Connor cannily evokes the mid-80s, when pop still had a cultural and even a political clout."
"This book is a must."
"An intoxicating novel…A comic masterpiece…Extremely funny…Addictively entertaining…
But what makes this novel such a compulsive read is its extraordinary emotional intensity…
An incredibly moving piece of work."
Declan Hughes, Sunday Independent