Good Luck with the Book Reviews Leonard and Hungry Paul
Series 2, Episode 4: ‘Sarah and Hungry Jamie’
26 March 2021
Sarah and Jamie review the 2021 Dublin One City One Book selection, Leonard and Hungry Paul. Leonard and Hungry Paul are friends, in their thirties, who view life rather differently. Leonard ghost-writes encyclopedias; Hungry Paul, comfortable with silence, embodies mindfulness. When Leonard seems ready to move on, will Hungry Paul get left behind? Here’s an extract from the podcast. Full interview can be found here.
Sarah: So, this week, we're going to be talking about the fabulous Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession.
Jamie: I think the best description I can give for this was by Sue Leonard, who wrote a piece for Zurich.ie, which describes the book. I'm just going to read a couple of lines, because I think it totally sums it up. “Leonard and Hungry Paul is the story of two friends who ordinarily remain on celebrated. It finds value and specialists in them that is not immediately apparent and prompts. The idea that maybe we could learn from the people we overlook in life.” This book has been chosen by BBC Radio 2 as their Book Club Choice in 2019, The Irish Times selected as one of their books for the year. Rick O’Shea chose it as one of his books of the year. It was shortlisted by the Booksellers Association as one of their books of the year. And it was also shortlisted for the New Irish Writer Category at the Irish book awards in 2019. And you know what, totally deserved.
And this year it is the One City One Book choice for Dublin city.
Sarah: It's the first time, you know, in a long time when I read a book and I nearly cried because I was finished.
Jamie: I thought the timing of this for lockdown is amazing. We have reviewed amazing books in this podcast through the lockdowns and this is the number one book I would recommend to somebody who is having a tough time in lockdown and would like something joyous and uplifting and special and a delight. I found it an absolute delight. I feel that is the book we all should know about but somehow, I don't know about.
Sarah: I still didn't know that I didn't know about it for so long.
Jamie: It really is about the simplest little thing. It's two friends who, around thirty-ish, both have been living with their parents and live these unremarkable quiet middle-class lives and don't do anything particularly exciting and nothing particularly mad happens, but it's so delicate and special. I'm finding it hard to even compare it to anything. You just fall in love with the characters, the writing… it's a rare literary book that has a worldview that is positive.
Sarah: This is how programmed we are to negativity, you know, just that anxiousness. Like, at the start, I kept waiting for something bad to happen. I was like, okay, the dad is going to have a heart attack.
Jamie: In a way you're thinking, so little happens, how can there be a climax? All novel kind of need something to climax on. And yet, the climax is amazing. You have these two men who are unsuccessful, they have none of the trappings of a ‘successful’ man who is thirty in our ego-driven sense of the word.
Hungry Paul has a sister, who is what we would think is living the happier richer life, and there's a moment where the two siblings, who are such completely different paths, clash and actually you realize that Hungry Paul is probably the more enlightened of the two and has figured out life.
Sarah: It really just points out that thing, this obsession people have with wanting stuff, labels, and thinking that other people who don't have it, want it, which is a big thing, but they don't. Some people don't want this.
Jamie: I wonder if Rónán, I don't know, if he’s read, maybe Eckhart Tolle? Or something like that. The book actually leads to this final moment, which reminded me of Buddha's silent Flower Sermon. And, I won't say anymore, because just read the book. But that’s what I thought of. I thought, is this a parable of spirituality?
Sarah: I was going to ask you that. What if you were told to be quiet and do absolutely nothing for an hour? Do you think you could do it?
Jamie: It's really hard. I've tried it. I would do things like guided meditations and that’s fine. I can do half an hour, just sitting there, listening to those. But that’s still not quite doing absolutely nothing. I have tested myself. I would just sit. I wouldn't turn on the TV. I would just sit there and see how long I could sit there until it started feeling really uncomfortable. It would take about three minutes and I started feeling really, really uncomfortable and I’d want to look at my phone. And I remember actually realizing, “Oh, you think you can actually just break this with a bit of willpower…
The full review is on the Good Luck with the Book Podcast, Series 2, Episode 4: Sarah and Hungry Jamie.
Hosts: Sarah Cassidy and Jamie O'Connell
Leonard and Hungry Paul is available in all good bookstores.