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Fiona Scarlett: Boys Don’t Cry (2021) – Review by Krisztina Kodó

Fiona Scarlett Irish novelist visited Hungary at the end of September 2022. She was invited for the Budapest International Book Festival to the First Novelist Section with her book titled:  Boys Don’t’ Cry. Fiona Scarlett’s work is her debut novel published during the lockdown of 2021.

The Irish Embassy in Hungary invited the author for its Irish Embassy Book Club event on 29 September 2022. Since the lockdown all Embassy book club meetings have been online, but now this special occasion provided the opportunity to meet in person again.

The Irish Embassy book club was held at the Irish Embassy in Budapest where H.E. Ronan Gargan Ambassador to Hungary was also present along with numerous book club members. For some of the book club members this was also a first occasion to finally meet those with whom they had had monthly online meetings in the past two years.

The event was launched by H.E. Ronan Gargan who introduced the author and welcomed her to Hungary and the book club event.

Fiona Scarlett started the lively discussion by talking about herself and her incentive for writing. She said she was an avid reader and had loved plays since her childhood. She never thought she was going to be a writer. “I had zero confidence in my ability and didn’t come to writing until my mid-thirties as it wasn’t something that I ever thought I could do; it wasn’t even on my radar to be honest.” (Scarlett, Five or six years ago when she was in a pub with her husband, she had the sudden idea of writing a book. Then she began by writing funny books for young children. In all this time, she admits, that her greatest task was finding her own voice. That was why she “signed up for an MLitt in creative writing via distance learning (not being able to give up the day job) at the University of Glasgow” (Scarlett writing-ie).

Her inspiration for the work was, as she says, her Da, “who believed without question that one person could make a difference, and that we should all at least try, who died on the 10th of December 2020 at the age of just sixty-six” (Scarlett

The title of the novel, Boys Don’t Cry, is a solid and bold statement, which, according to the author, the publisher had accepted from the beginning. The work is literally loaded with contemporary Irish references of Dublin, The Jax, the pub, and the verbal language, which makes this work even more authentic.

The novel is rapid, fast-paced, and turbulent as Finn and Joe, the two brothers, appear in the short chapters. It is the chapter spoken by Joe, a seventeen-year-old, which begins and ends the novel. The book is intricately patterned to create a dramatic dialogue like form through which the two voices emerge and present the emotionally charged situation. The events revolve around Finn, an eleven-year-old, who is really a happy-go-lucky personality. He is, however, diagnosed with cancer. As a result, his life is turned upside down even though everyone tries to shield him from the reality of death.

Joe, his older brother, is an artist, like the author’s father, for whom art is an outlet. And the mother figure, “Ma”, is like the glue that sticks everything together. The main question of the book is “how do you find yourself?” in your family, in your environment and the world. Is love the ultimate answer? Finn’s illness and death forces all the characters connected to reassess their lives and their understanding of the world around them. The work finishes off with an open ending, which ultimately offers Joe optimism and hope for a better future, …if he can find himself.

Fiona Scarlett’s first book has become an unforgettable bestseller and she is now working on her second novel. Currently, she is writer-in-residence at Maynooth University and Kildare Libraries. Congratulations and we look forward to reading your next work!